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 of Jackson Pollock[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.

1925 - 1940[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.
    • In a letter (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]

  • I believe easel painting to be a dying form, and the tendency of modern feeling is toward the wall picture or mural..
    • In his application for a grant given by the Guggenheim Foundation 1944; as quoted in Abstract expressionism, Barbara Hess, Taschen Köln, 2006, p. 9


  • 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.
    • In '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?', in '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.
    • In '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
    • Quote 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.


  • I can control the flow of paint; there is no accident..
  • In: Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Ines Janet Engelmann, Prestel Verlag Munich, 2007, p. 54


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. [remark on his former art-teacher w:Thomas Hart Benton ]
    • As quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990, p. 137


  • 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] 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 Joan Miró, are still abroad.
    • As quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York, 1990, p. 138


  • 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, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York, 1990, p. 138


  • 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.
    • In '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.
    • In a letter to [[w:Alfonso A. 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.
    • Quote in a radio interview (1951); as quoted in Lives of the Great Twentieth Century Artists', (1986) Edward Lucie-Smith, p. 263


  • 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 [ Willem the Kooning ] is a good painter, but he's a 'French' painter [Pollock meant: a French-abstract style]. 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.. [answering Seldon Rodman's question]
    • In an interview (1956); published in 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.
    • In an interview (1956); published in Conversations with Artists, by Seldon Rodman, New York, Capricorn Books, 1961, pp. 84-85


Interview by William Wright, Summer 1950[edit]

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,

  • It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of Renaissance or of any past culture. Each age finds its own technique...
    • p. 17


  • 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] and it doesnvery vibrantt 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 Seckler 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.'


  • 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 Jackson Pollock[edit]

chronologically
  • [visiting Pollock’s studio]: You do not work from nature. This is no good, you will repeat yourself. You work by heart, not from nature. [Pollock answered: 'I am nature']
    • Hans Hofmann (c. 1944), as quoted in Jackson Pollock, Ellen G Landau, 1989 p. 259


  • He [Pollock] has broken the ice.
    • Willem de Kooning (1948), his 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), David Anfam, p. 130


  • If you're a painter, you are not alone. There's no way to be alone. You think and you care and you're with all the people who care. You think you care and you're with all the people who care, including the young people who don't know they do yet. Tomlin in his late paintings knew this. Jackson always knew it: that if you meant it enough...
    • Franz Kline (1958), in Evergreen Review, vol. II, (no 6) autumn 1958, p. 11-15


  • He [Jackson Pollock] just jumps in before he knows how to swim. [his reaction, when Morandi sees paintings of Pollock for the first time in his life, c. 1950]
    • Giorgio Morandi, in Morandi 1894 – 1964, published by Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, ed: M. C. Bandera & R. Miracco - 2008; p. 298


  • When Jackson talked about painting he didn't usurp anything that wasn't himself. He didn't want to change anything, he wasn't using any outworn attitude about it, he was always himself. He just wanted to be in it because he loved it. The response in the person's mind to that mysterious thing that has happened before has nothing to do with 'who did it first'.
    • Franz Kline (1958), in Evergreen Review, vol. II, (no 6) autumn 1958, p. 11-15


  • Certainly I know that he [Jackson] did see the Indians doing sand paintings. You know, that's a fact. But I don't know why he chose to work on the floor. All I can say is that he did.. .He would never have said, 'That's why I am working on the floor, because I saw the Indians' sand painting.'. But I've heard him say that he did see the Indians' sand painting. I think by now that's been established. I wouldn't know why he worked on the floor, but obviously that was the way he worked. And that's that!.. .No, I didn't work on the floor.
    • Lee Krasner (1964), in 'Oral history interview with Lee Krasner', conducted by Dorothy Seckler, 1964 Nov. 2 - 1968 Apr. 11, in Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution


  • There is a painting called 'Prophecy' which I did just before I left for Europe. Every time the work broke, it sent me into a tailspin because I couldn’t tell what was happening. I asked Jackson to come and look at this painting and he did and said I needn’t be nervous about it. He thought it was a good painting and the only thing that he objected to was this image in the upper right hand which I had scratched in with the back of a brush. It made a kind of an eye form. He advised me to take it out. I said that I didn’t agree with him and left it in.. ..it is the change that I had to get used to and accept. It frightened me.. ..it frightened me, particularly because it happened just before I left for Europe. Jackson looked at it, said what he said, and I went off to Europe. Jackson was killed in the automobile accident [Aug. 1956] while I was there and when I came back I had to confront myself with this painting before I was able to start again..
    • Lee Krasner (1964), 'in Oral history interview with Lee Krasner', conducted by Dorothy Seckler, 1964 Nov. 2 - 1968 Apr. 11', Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; conducted by Dorothy Seckler


  • The first Pollock show I saw was in 1951 at Betty Parson's gallery, early in the fall, probably September or October. It was staggering. I really felt surrounded. I went with Clement Greenberg [famous art-critic of American Abstract Expressionism / New York School] who threw me into the room and seemed to say 'swim'. By then I had been exposed to enough of it so it hit me and had magic but didn't puzzle me to the point of stopping my feelings.
    • Helen Frankenthaler (1965), in 'Interview with Helen Frankenthaler', Henry Geldzahler; in 'Artforum' 4. no. 2, October 1965, p. 36


  • I went out to Springs and saw Pollock and his work, not only the shows [Frankenthaler frequently visited Pollock, and his wife Lee Krasner ]. In 1951 I looked at de Kooning as much as at Pollock.. ..but these came after all the [her] Cubist training and exercise. It all combined to push me on. Like Cubism.. ..I felt many more possibilities in Pollock's work. That is, I looked.. ..and was influenced by both Pollock and De Kooning and eventually felt that there were many more possibilities for me out of the Pollock vocabulary.. .de Kooning made enclosed linear shapes and 'applied' the brush. Pollock used shoulder and ropes and ignored the edges and the corner. I felt I could stretch more in the Pollock framework. I found that in Pollock I also responded to a certain Surreal element – the understated image that was really present: animals, thoughts, jungles, expressions. You could become a de Kooning disciple or satellite or mirror, but you could depart from Pollock.
    • Helen Frankenthaler (1965), in 'Interview with Helen Frankenthaler', Henry Geldzahler; Artforum' 4. no. 2, October 1965, p. 37


  • He [Pollock] is the one who would pull me out of a state when I would say, 'the work has changed and I can't stand it. It's just like so and so's work.' Then he would come [they lived and worked together] and look and say, 'You are crazy, It is nothing like so and so's work. Just continue painting and stop hanging yourself up.' We had that kind of rapport.
    • Lee Krasner (1975), in Art Talk, Conversations with 15 woman artists, Cindy Nemser, 1975, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 1995, p. 83


  • 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 [ Lee Krasner, his wife] 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.'


  • He [Pollock] had an intuitive sense of rhythmical relations. He knew what counted.. .Even as an utter novice he never made anything ugly.
  • His chief difficulty was with the basic art of drawing.
    • w:Thomas Hart Benton [Pollock's early art-teacher], in [1] his autobiography, An Artist in America, pp. 333 & 334, p. 332


  • To me, Pollock is the height of American painting. It's very lyrical.
    • Cy Twombly, in the interview: 'Cy Towmbly, 2000', in June 2000; published in Interviews with American Artists by David Sylvester, David Sylvester, Chatto and Windus – London 2001; p. 179

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