Born in Wyoming and raised in Arizona and California, Jackson Pollock attended art school and worked in New York where he dominated the art scene in the 1940s and 1950s, becoming widely recognized as the leading Abstract Expressionist in America. Best known for the drip paintings that have come to exemplify the innovations and freedom of Abstract Expressionism, Pollock was also a gifted and prolific draughtsman. In fact, drawing played a seminal role throughout his career. He often used his sketches to work through artistic ideas and experiments, from the realistic studies of the 1930s to the personal symbolism of the 1940s and ultimately to the individually characteristic linear expressionism of the 1950s.
Pollock's famous "War" is the only drawing he ever titled, and, although inscribed "1947," it relates to the iconographically complex images he produced earlier, around 1943–44. In this composition, the monstrous destruction of war is conveyed both by the fierceness of the graphic execution and by the imagery, much of which is camouflaged by the many linear motions, darkened and thickened and highlighted with flashes of red and yellow pencil to heighten the dramatic intensity. The drawing's narrative is one of horrific proportions. A human figure and a bull are flung onto a raging pyre of human debris. To the right, the crucifixion of a hooded figure is suggested. Some of the imagery may be traced to Picasso's pair of etchings "The Dream and Lie of Franco," and to the Spanish artist's epic painting on war, "Guernica," both from 1937. Yet even as Pollock's work engages with the history of art and offers a statement on the universal horrors of war, it also has a personal dimension, drawing on from the psychological language of Surrealism that fueled his early works.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower right): Jackson Pollock 47
the artist, Springs, N.Y. (until d. 1956; his estate, New York, 1956–62); Lee Krasner Pollock, New York (1962–82; her gift to MMA)
Bloomington. Fine Arts Center, Indiana University. "First Indiana Print and Drawing Show," May 1–31, 1948, no catalogue.
Iowa City. State University of Iowa, School of Fine Arts. "Prints & Drawings," 1949.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Jackson Pollock," December 19, 1956–February 3, 1957, no. 40 (as "Drawing," lent by Lee Krasner Pollock, Springs, Long Island).
Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo. "Pollock, IV Bienal," September 22–December 31, 1957, no. 16 (as "Guerra. War," lent by Lee Krasner Pollock, Springs, Long Island, New York).
Rome. Museo Nazionale Romano. "Jackson Pollock: 1912–1956," March 1–30, 1958, no. 47 (lent by Lee Krasner Pollock, Springs, Long Island, New York).
Philadelphia. Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. 1959, no catalogue.
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "Jackson Pollock et las nouvelle peinture américaine," January 16–February 15, 1959, no. 45.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Jackson Pollock," April 5–June 4, 1967, no. 136 (lent by the estate of the artist).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Jackson Pollock," July 9–September 3, 1967, no. 136.
Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," February 11–March 19, 1968, unnumbered cat. (p. 36; dated "1944, subsequently inscribed 1947").
College Park. University of Maryland Art Gallery. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," April 1–22, 1968, unnumbered cat.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," May 14–June 16, 1968, unnumbered cat.
Seattle Art Museum. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," July 11–August 18, 1968, unnumbered cat.
Baltimore Museum of Art. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," September 8–October 6, 1968, unnumbered cat.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," October 21–November 18, 1968, unnumbered cat.
Waltham, Mass. Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University. "Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper," January 20–February 16, 1969, unnumbered cat.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Jackson Pollock: Drawing into Painting," February 4–March 16, 1980, unnumbered cat. (p. 34; dated c.1943–44, subsequently inscribed 1947, lent by Lee Krasner Pollock, New York).
Berlin. Deutsche Guggenheim. "No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock, Paintings on Paper," January 29–April 10, 2005, unnumbered cat. (pl. 36; dated ca. 1944–46).
Venice. Peggy Guggenheim Collection. "No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock, Paintings on Paper," June 4–September 18, 2005, unnumbered cat.
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock, Paintings on Paper," May 26–September 26, 2006, unnumbered cat.
Humlebaek. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. "Jorn & Pollock - Revolutionary Roads," November 15, 2013–February 23, 2014, no. 36.
Frank O'Hara. Jackson Pollock. New York, 1959, ill. p. 25.
Robert Melville. "Exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts." Architectural Review 125 (February 1959), p. 139, fig. 10.
Bryan Robertson. Jackson Pollock. New York, 1960, pp. 24, 98, colorpl. 49, notes the cruciform shape at the bottom of this work and states that this was a symbol that obsessed Pollock during certain periods in the early part of his career.
Dore Ashton. "New York Commentary." Studio International 174 (July/August 1967), ill. p. 46.
Bernice Rose. Jackson Pollock: Works on Paper. Exh. cat., Walker Art Center. New York, 1969, p. 17, 37, ill. p. 36 (color), calls it unique in Pollock's work because its violent imagery is directly influenced by Picasso's "Guernica" (Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid) and his "The Dream and Lie of Franco" etching.
Alberto Busignani. Pollock. New York, 1971, colorpl. 25.
Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the Twentieth Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, p. 208, fig. 375, date it 1944, noting it was "subsequently inscribed 1947".
Italo Tomassoni. Pollock. New York, 1978, pp. 34–35, ill. pp. 40–41 (color).
Francis Valentine O'Connor and Eugene Victor Thaw, ed. Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings, and Other Works. Vol. 3, Drawings, 1930–1956. New Haven, 1978, pp. 254–55, no. 765, ill., state that according to Krasner, this is the only drawing Pollock titled.
Bernice Rose. Jackson Pollock: Drawing into Painting. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1980, pp. 13, 94, ill. p. 34.
Francis V. O'Connor. Jackson Pollock: Black Pourings, 1951–1953. Exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Boston, 1980, p. 19, fig. 14.
Michael Brenson. "Met Museum Gets Pollock Works." New York Times (December 22, 1982), p. C15, notes that William S. Lieberman thinks this work may have been executed during World War II.
Lisa M. Messinger. "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1982–1983. New York, 1983, p. 71, ill. (color), remarking on the influence of "Guernica" (1937, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid) in this work, notes that Picasso's painting had been on view for many years at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Marisa Vescovo inJackson Pollock: Opere 1930–1956. Exh. cat., Palazzo Venezia. Venice, 1983, pp. 17, 106, ill. n.p. (color) and cover (color).
William S. Lieberman inJackson Pollock: Opere 1930–1956. Exh. cat., Palazzo Venezia. Rome, 1983, p. 11.
Yoshiaki Tōno. Pollock. Tokyo, 1985, p. 81, ill.
Ellen G. Landau. "'A Certain Brightness': Artists for Victory's 'America in the War' Exhibition of 1943." Arts Magazine 60 (February 1986), p. 53, fig. 22.
Ellen G. Landau. Jackson Pollock. New York, 1989, pp. 88, 254 n. 15, ill. p. 82 (color), identifies this work as one of the few in which the artist directly references World War II and its aftermath; discusses the influence of Picasso, stating that his etching "The Dream and Lie of Franco" (1937) was widely reproduced; mentions that Frank O'Connor, in an unpublished lecture at Dartmouth, related this work to Orozco's mural "After the Battle" (Gabino Ortiz Library, Jiquilpan, 1940).
Ben Heller. Jackson Pollock: Black Enamel Paintings. Exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery. New York, 1990, p. 14.
Stephen Polcari. Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience. Cambridge, 1991, pp. 249–50, fig. 190.
Lisa Mintz Messinger. Abstract Expressionism, Works on Paper: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art, Atlanta. New York, 1992, pp. 84, 90, fig. 33 (color).
Stephen Polcari. "Orozco and Pollock: Epic Transfigurations." American Art 6 (Summer 1992), pp. 53–54, fig. 25, states that this drawing's "jumble of free touches and lines...recalls Orozco's images of endless stacks of human bodies".
Lisa Messinger. Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper, Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, 1995, p. 80, no. 47, ill. (color).
Stephen Polcari inRichard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992). Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997, p. 63.
Stephen Polcari inMen of Fire: José Clemente Orozco and Jackson Pollock. Exh. cat., Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. Hanover, N. H., 2012, pp. 15–17, fig. 39 (color).
Jeremy Lewison inJorn & Pollock - Revolutionary Roads. Exh. cat., Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Humlebaek, 2013, pp. 56, 193, no. 36, ill. p. 108 (color).
David Anfam. Jackson Pollock's 'Mural': Energy Made Visible. Exh. cat., Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. New York, 2015, pp. 43, 45, 142, no. 24, ill. p. 46 (color).