Happy Birthday, Jackson Pollock

“Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.” – Jackson Pollock

You’ve probably seen Hans Namuth’s famous black-and-white portraits of Jackson Pollock in his studio, splattering his canvasses on the floor with inky black paint. One of the most influential painters of the 20th century, Jackson Pollock was especially known for his drip painting technique – a style in the category of what’s called action painting, which is exactly what it sounds like. But Pollock wasn’t just about random splatters of paint – there’s a method to the madness that’s been studied by art historians and physicists (some who see parallels between his painted patterns and fractals) alike. From his incredible (and incredibly large) abstract expressionist pieces to his beautiful relationship with artist Lee Krasner, we’ve got lots of reasons to celebrate Jackson Pollock’s 105th birthday today – and here’s five of them:

1. Mural (1943)

One of Pollock’s earliest works, this piece was painted under the mentorship of two people you’re probably already familiar with – Peggy Guggenheim (who commissioned this from Pollock for the entryway of her new townhouse) and Marcel Duchamp (who suggested that be painted on canvas, not the wall itself – a small piece of advice that would have a major impact on the rest of Pollock’s career).

2. Number 5 (1948)

This painting marks the birth of action painting, which would earn Pollock the nickname of “Jack the Dripper.”

3. Number 1, Lavender Mist (1950)

Concerned that names might convolute a viewer’s interpretation of his pieces, Pollock typically gave his painting numbers rather than titles – but his friend and art critic Clement Greenberg suggested Lavender Mist to draw attention to the atmospheric effect of his piece (although there isn’t any lavender in this piece whatsoever).

4. Autumn Rhythm, Number 30 (1950)

To avoid any drippage, Pollock worked with his canvases on the floor, which meant that he could work with huge canvases like these (Autumn Rhythm stands at 207 inches wide) from every single angle. That’s why there’s no central point of focus, no visual hierarchy in his action painting pieces – yet, surprisingly enough, you’d immediately be able to tell if this piece was hanging upside down. Sure, his drip painting technique was all about spontaneity – but Pollock was always quick to note that he was also always in control.

5. The Deep (1953)

The 1950s were a big turning point in Pollock’s work – he began moving away from his drip painting  technique and from using color, eventually painting exclusively in black toward the end of his career. But there are many different interpretations of this late great’s piece – some see a deep abyss, and some (like Kandinsky) saw “immaculate joy.” We’ll leave this one up to you.

At Classic Specs, we’re always inspired by artists – the way they live, the way they think, and the beautiful things they create. And we love working with them, too. Check out our Classic Specs Artist Collaboration Series to see the glasses and sunglasses we’ve made with artists Jean Jullien, Margherita Urbani, and Tim Lahan.

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