ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM - ACTION PAINTERS Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning
J A C K S O N P O L L O C K THE GREATEST AMERICAN PAINTER? Began painting in 1929 under tutorship of regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. Influenced by the Mexican muralist painters and Navajo Indians. By the mid 1940’s he was painting in a completely abstract manner. His ‘drip and splash’ style which he is best known for emerged with some abruptness in 1947. An unhappy personal life (alcoholic) and premature death have contributed to his legendary status. Barnett Newman (L), Jackson Pollock and Tony Smith at the Betty Parsons Gallery, April 1951 (Detail of photo by Hans Namuth)
Jackson Pollock: The She-Wolf (1943) Oil, gouache, and plaster on canvas Describe the subject matter and how Pollock has created this image. Does it seem gestural? Why?
The Moon Woman (1942) Again, thinking about subject matter, how does this work show some of the Surrealist qualities of an artist like Miro or Ernst? How is it different? Joan Miró . Character. 1934. Max Ernst . Eve, the Only One Left to Us. 1925.
Jackson Pollock: Eyes in the Heat (1946) Oil on canvas, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Jackson Pollock: Shimmering Substance 1946; Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 in; The Museum of Modern Art, New York Consider these two works and explain how these differ stylistically from Pollock’s works from the previous two slides.
Jackson Pollock: Full Fathom Five (1947) Oil on canvas with nails, tacks, buttons, coins, cigarettes, etc, 129 x 76.5 cm 1947 is an important year in the development to Pollock’s approach to painting. It is the year that he did his first ‘drip’ painting. Looking at this work consider which colour he laid down first. Last? How do you think that he actually do this painting. What effect is created by this ‘drip’ style and the layering of the painting on the viewer? Explain.
Pollock preferred the fluidity of commercial enamel house paints to the more viscous texture of traditional oils. This choice allowed him to weave a more intricate pictorial web, flinging swirls of paint onto the canvas. Some critics thought that he had no control, he argued that with practice one can predict the way the paint will fall. Pollock wrote of his technique: “ I continue to get further away from the usual painter's tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass and other foreign matter added.” Process
Jackson Pollock: Number 1 (Lavender Mist) (1950); Oil, enamel, and aluminium paint on canvas; 221 x 300 cm To what extent does the formal quality of line play a significant role in Pollock’s work? Back up your ideas using this painting and consider things such as composition, perspective, colour, or rhythm as a starting point to your ideas.
The composition is defined by:
Sweeping lines of dripped and splattered paint.
This forms a threadlike net that sweeps across and fills the entire canvas.
Pollock's initial black traceries anchor the painting by establishing rhythmic unity.
Extraction of black paint pattern from Lavender Mist
By placing his canvases on the ground Pollock changed the way that the artist worked on art. His balance has changed and he starts to paint from the hips rather than from the shoulder. How might this affect the overall process of the painting? He said, “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk round it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. This is akin to the methods of the Indian sand painters of the West.”
In the 1950s art critic Harold Rosenberg described the archetypal "action painter" as an artist who transformed his canvas into a modern-day arena wherein an epic struggle between man and material might unfold. Was Pollock’s work paradoxical? Man/Nature Chaos/Order Ugliness/Beauty Use of line: Thick/Thin Light/Dark Heavy/Buoyant Straight/Curved Horizontal/Vertical
WILLEM DE KOONING THE TRUE GESTURE PAINTER? Born in Netherlands In 1916 he was apprenticed to a firm of commercial artists and decorators, and, about the same time, he enrolled in night classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques, where he studied for eight years. In 1920, he went to work for the art director of a large department store. Jumped ship from a Dutch Freighter docked in Virginia in 1926. Came under the influence of Gorky in ’27 and became one of his closest friends.
De Kooning: Fire Island (1946), Oil on paper, 48 x 67 cm Joan Miro: Dutch Interior II (1928) Arshile Gorky: Garden in Sochi (1941) Looking at these three works, what similarities can you see within them? What are the key differences?
De Kooning: Excavation (1950) Oil on canvas, 200x250cm Consider de Kooning’s subject matter. What does it seem that he is trying to create a picture of? What makes you think so? Is there an element of figuration? Why?
Willem de Kooning: Woman I (1950-52) Oil on canvas De Kooning embarks on a series of Women paintings that many critics and theorists have questioned, praised and attacked. What do you think that de Kooning is working through in this work? Why do you think so? How might this work affect different viewers? How is this work different to what we have seen so far in de Kooning’s oeuvre?
Willem de Kooning: Woman IV (1952) Willem de Kooning: Woman and Bicycle (1952) De Kooning’s Woman series has been seen by many as misogynistic, while others have seen it as confronting female stereotypes of pin-up women in an aggressive and perhaps powerful manner. In what ways does it seem that de Kooning is representing the female form in a 1940/50s context?
Blue poles: Number 11 (1952) Composition (1955) Both artists have held the title ‘the greatest American painter’ and while stating a friendship with one another were fiercely competitive with each other. In your opinion, which artist seems to encapsulate ‘action painting’? Justify your answer using a range of examples from each artists’ career.