Jackson Pollock

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I am nature.

Paul Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912August 11, 1956) was one of the leading artists and an influential American painter in the Abstract Expressionist movement, together with Willem de Kooning.

Quotes[edit]

The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.
The modern artist is living in a mechanical age and we have a mechanical means of representing objects in nature such as the camera and photograph. The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion and the other inner forces.

Youth[edit]

  • As to what I would like to be. It is difficult to say. An Artist of some kind. If nothing else I shall always study the Arts. People have always frightened and bored me consequently I have been within my own shell and have not accomplished anything materially.
    • Jackson Pollock (1929) Letter send Los Angeles October 22, 1929 to Charles and Frank in New York. Published in: Jackson Pollock (2011) American Letters: 1927-1947. p. 16

1940s[edit]

  • It came into existence because I had to paint it. Any attempt on my part to say something about it, to attempt explanation of the inexplicable, could only destroy it.
    • 1947, on his painting ‘She wolf’; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism, David Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd London, 1990, p. 87
  • My painting does not come from the easel. I hardly ever stretch my canvas before painting. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. This is akin to the method of the Indian sand painters of the West.
    • Possibilities Vol. 1, no 1, winter 1947-48, p. 79; as quoted in "Jackson Pollock: is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" Life (8 August 1949), pp. 42-45
  • When I am in my painting, I am not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a short of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.
    • Possibilities, Vol. 1, no 1, winter 1947-48, p. 79; as quoted in Jackson Pollock (1983) by Elizabeth Frank, p. 68
  • Technic is the result of a need new needs demand new technics total control denial of the accident States of order organic intensity energy and motion made visible memories arrested in space, human needs and motives acceptance
    • Around 1948-‘49; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism (1990), David Anfam, p. 121
    • Pollock wrote this text on the back of a photo of himself taken in his own studio.

Art and Architecture (1944)[edit]

Source: Jackson Pollock in Art and Architecture Vol. 61 no. 2, February 1944;

  • My work with Benton was important as something against which to react very strongly, later on; in this, it was better to have worked with him than with a less resistant personality who would have provided a much less strong opposition. At the same time Benton introduced me to Renaissance art. (on his former teacher Benton)
    • As quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, p. 137, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990
  • I accept the fact that the important painting of the last hundred years was done in France. American painters have generally missed the point of modern painting from beginning to end... Thus the fact that good European moderns (European artists who lived in the U.S. because of the Nazi-regime, fh) are now here is very important, for they bring with them an understanding of the problems of modern painting. I am particularly impressed with their concept of the source of art being the unconscious. These idea interests me more than these specific artists do, for the two artists I admire most, Picasso and Miró, are still abroad.
    • As quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, p. 138, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York, 1990
  • The idea of an isolated American painting, so popular in this country during the thirties, seems absurd to me, just as the idea of a purely American mathematics or physics would seem absurd... And in another sense, the problem doesn’t exist at all; or, if it did, would solve itself: An American is an American and his painting would naturally be qualified by the fact, whether he wills or not. But the basic problems of contemporary painting are independent of any one country.
    • As quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, p. 138, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York, 1990
  • I have a definite feeling for the West, the vast horizontality of the land, for instance.... I have always been very impressed with the plastic qualities of American Indian art. The Indians have the true painter’s approach in their capacity to get hold of appropriate images, and in their understanding of what constitutes painterly subject-matter. Their colour is essentially Western, their vision has the basic universality of all real art. Some people find references to American Indian art and calligraphy in parts of my pictures. That wasn’t intentional; probably (it) was the result of early memories and enthusiasm.
    • As quoted in Twentieth-century American painting, Gail Levin, The Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. London, 1987, p. 267

1950s[edit]

  • Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t meant it as a compliment, but it was. It was a fine compliment. Only he didn’t know it.
    • "Unframed Space," interview with Berton Roueché, The New Yorker (5 August 1950),; as quoted in The Grove Book of Art Writing: Brilliant Words on Art from Pliny the Elder to Damien Hirst, ed. Martin Gayford and Karen Wright [Grove Press, 2000, ISBN 0-802-13720-2], p. 546
  • I’ve had a period of drawing on canvas in black – with some of my early images coming thru -, think the non-objectivists will find them disturbing – and the kids who think it simple to splash a 'Pollock' out.
    • Letter to Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon (1951); as quoted in "Abstract Expressionism" (1990) by David Anfam, p. 175
  • The thing that interests me is that today painters do not have to go to a subject-matter outside themselves. Modern painters work in a different way. They work from within.
    • Radio interview (1951); as quoted in "Lives of the Great Twentieth Century Artists" (1986) by Edward Lucie-Smith, p. 263

Interview by William Wright, Summer 1950[edit]

Source: Interview by William Wright, Summer 1950 (for broadcasting, but never used); as quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990,

  • I think they (the public) should not look for, but look passively — and try to receive what the painting has to offer and not bring a subject matter or preconceived idea of what they are to be looking for.. .and I think the unconsciousness drives do mean a lot in looking at paintings... I think it should enjoyed just as music is enjoyed — after a while you may like it or you may not. But it doesn’t seem to be too serious. I like some flowers, and others, other flowers I don’t like. I think at least it gives — at least give it a chance.
    • pp. 139-140,
  • The modern artist is living in a mechanical age and we have a mechanical means of representing objects in nature such as the camera and photograph. The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion and the other inner forces... the modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.
    • pp. 139-140
  • Modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age we’re living in... All cultures have had means and techniques of expressing their immediate aims – the Chinese, the Renaissance, all cultures. The thing that interests me is that today painters do not have to go to a subject matter outside of themselves. Most modern painters work from a different source, they work from within.
    • p. 140
  • Well, method is, it seems to me, a natural growth out of a need, and from a need the modern artist has found new ways of expressing the world about him. I happen to find ways that are different from the usual techniques, which seems a little strange at the moment, but I don’t think there’s anything very different about it. I paint on the floor and this isn’t unusual – the Orientals did that.
    • pp. 142-143
  • Most of the paint I use is a liquid, flowing kind of paint. The brushes I use are more a sticks rather than brushes – the brush doesn’t touch the surface on the canvas, it’s just above... [so] I am able to be more free and to have greater freedom and move about the canvas, with greater ease.
    • p. 144
  • With experience it seems to be possible to control the flow of paint, to a great extent, and I don’t use – I don’t use the accident – ‘cause I deny the accident... it’s quite different from working, say, from a still life where you set up objects and work directly from them. I do have a general notion of what I’m about and what the results will be. I approach painting in the same sense as one approaches drawing, that is, it’s direct.
    • p. 144
  • I don’t work from drawings and colour sketches into a final painting. Painting, I think, today – the more immediate, the more direct – the greater the possibilities of making a direct – of making a statement.
    • p. 144
  • Well, painting today certainly seems very vibrant, very alive, very exiting. Five or six of my contemporaries around New York are doing very vital work, and the direction that painting seems to be taken here – is – away from the easel – into some sort, some kind of wall, wall painting...
    • p. 144
  • Naturally, the result is the thing (in painting, fh) and it doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.
    • p. 145

Attributed from posthumous publications[edit]

  • I am nature.
    • Attributed by Lee Krasner (1964) in "Oral history interview with Lee Krasner, 1964 Nov. 2-1968 Apr. 11", interview with Dorothy Strickler for the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art.
    • In Krasner's words, "When I brought Hofmann up to meet Pollock and see his work which was before we moved here, Hofmann’s reaction was — one of the questions he asked Jackson was, do you work from nature? There were no still lifes around or models around and Jackson’s answer was, 'I am nature.' And Hofmann’s reply was, 'Ah, but if you work by heart, you will repeat yourself.' To which Jackson did not reply at all."
  • The important thing is that Clyff Still – you know his work? – and Rothko, and I – we’ve changed the nature of painting... I don’t mean there aren’t any other good painters. Bill is a good painter, but he’s a "French" painter. I told him so, the last time I saw him after his last show... all those pictures in his last show start with an image. You can see it even though he’s covered it up, or tried to... Style – that’s the French part of it. He has to cover it up with style..
    • "Conversations with Artists", by Seldon Rodman, New York, Capricorn Books, 1961,, pp. 84-85
  • I don’t care for 'abstract expressionism'... and it is certainly not ‘non-objective’, and not ‘non-representational’ either. I’m very representational some of the time, and a little all of the time. But when you’re painting out of your consciousness, figures are bound to emerge. We’re all of us influenced by Freud, I guess. I’ve been a Jungian for a long time... Painting is a state of being... Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.
    • "Conversations with Artists", by Seldon Rodman, New York, Capricorn Books, 1961, pp. 84-85
  • Each age finds its own technique... I mean, the strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.
    • As quoted in Francis V. O'Connor (1967) Jackson Pollock, p. 79
  • My concern is with the rhythms of nature... I work inside out, like nature.
    • Quoted in Leonhard Emmerling (2003) Jackson Pollock: 1912-1956 Taschen, p. 48

Quotes about Pollock[edit]

  • He has broken the ice.
    • Willem de Kooning's comment on Pollock’s drip paintings, shown for the very first time at Betty Parsons Gallery, in New York in 1948, as quoted in Abstract Expressionism (1990) by David Anfam, p. 130
  • A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor... There was complete silence... Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter... My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said "This is it."

External links[edit]

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