Phaidon Focus: Jackson Pollock–Acknowledgments and Sources

My Jackson Pollock monograph was published in September 2014.
  • Hardback
  • English
  • 245 x 172 mm, 9 5/8 x 6 3/4 in
  • 144 pp
  • 92 colour illustrations, 24 black and white illustrations
  • ISBN-13: 9780714861500
  • ISBN-10: 0714861502
  • US$22.95
Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) led the vanguard of post-World War II American art with his pioneering method of painting, which broke with tradition in both subject matter and technique. Engaging viscerally with emotions, thoughts and other intangibles, he used fluid pigment poured directly onto the canvas. His liquid medium, applied with sweeping gestures, proved to be the ideal vehicle for the  mercurial content that he sought to communicate: “energy and motion made visible – memories arrested in space.” Charting the course of his life and career, from his early training in figurative painting to his position as the most critically acclaimed proponent of Abstract Expressionism, this book sets Pollock’s artistic development in the context of his volatile personal life and his wide-ranging artistic influences, including Mexican murals and Native American art, as well as European modernism. Pollock’s extraordinary impact became evident when his patron Peggy Guggenheim declared him to be “the greatest painter since Picasso.”



As the director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, I have been privileged to work with several of the most prominent Pollock scholars. Foremost among them is Francis V. O’Connor, whose advice and encouragement throughout my career have been invaluable. I have relied heavily on his pioneering chronological and documentary research. I am thankful to him, and to Eugene V. Thaw, his co-editor of the Jackson Pollock catalogue raisonné and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s president emeritus, for their comments and suggestions. The foundation’s exemplary stewardship of Pollock and Krasner’s legacy, and the cooperation of its board and staff, including permission to reproduce Pollock’s work, are sincerely appreciated.

Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith, co-authors of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, kindly let me read their wealth of interview transcripts in the early stages of my research, and granted me permission to quote from unpublished material. I also wish to thank Lillian Meyer Emanuel, Joan Mendenhall Schreder and Howard Zucker, M.D. for contributing previously unknown information about Pollock, and the estates of Rebecca Tarwater Hicks and Tony Smith for allowing the publication of recently discovered works by Pollock.

I am grateful to Kim Scott, the project editor at Phaidon Press, for her expert guidance in shaping this book. It was David Anfam, Phaidon’s commissioning editor and a respected scholar of Abstract Expressionism, who recommended that I write it and contributed significantly to its development. I appreciate his confidence in me, and trust that my efforts live up to his high standards.

This book is lovingly dedicated to my husband, Roy Nicholson, whose help in ways large and small was essential.


All extracts of letters are from copies in the Jackson Pollock Catalogue Raisonné Archives, Pollock-Krasner Study Center, Stony Brook Southampton, Southampton, New York. Excerpts from Pollock’s correspondence were published in Francis V. O’Connor and Eugene V. Thaw, eds., Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings, and Other Works (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1978), Vol. 4: Chronology. Letters to his parents and brothers are collected in American Letters 1927-1947: Jackson Pollock and Family (Cambridge: Polity, 2011).

An extensive Jackson Pollock bibliography is available at



energy and motion made visible – memories arrested in space Jackson Pollock, handwritten statement, ca. 1950, pasted to the back of a photograph of Pollock by Hans Namuth. Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Box 6, folder 11, frame 9.–286107

new needs need new techniques Jackson Pollock interviewed by William Wright, late 1950, for broadcast on WERI Radio, Westerly, Rhode Island. First published in Francis V. O’Connor, Jackson Pollock (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1967), pp. 79-81. An audio recording is included in Two Dialogues, Sooj Records, Inc., 1996.

volcanic” talent James Johnson Sweeney, “Jackson Pollock,” Jackson Pollock: First Exhibition / Drawings and Paintings. Exhibition brochure.New York: Art of This Century, 9-27 November 1943.

the greatest painter since Picasso Peggy Guggenheim, Out of This Century: Confessions of an Art Addict (London: André Deutsch Ltd., 1980), p. 315.

Jackson broke the ice B.H. Friedman, Jackson Pollock: Energy Made Visible (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1972), p. 253.



to reassert the picture plane… not his way “Letter to the Editor,” The New York Times, 13 June 1943, Sect. 2 p. 9.

painting is self-discovery Selden Rodman, Conversations with Artists (New York: The Devin-Adair Co., 1957), p. 82.

gloried in the fact Transcribed audiotaped interview with Elizabeth Pollock, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga archives, Aiken, South Carolina. Book 17:791/1

Sculptoring I think tho is my medium Jackson Pollock to LeRoy Pollock, February 1932.

In his analytical work Transcribed audiotaped interview with Thomas Hart Benton, Saga archives. Book 16:751/1.

This was a series of murals…school’s drab walls. Written statement by Joan Mendenhall Schreder, 4 October 2006. Pollock-Krasner Study Center archives, Stony Brook Southampton, Southampton, New York.

a strong personality Narration read by Pollock in Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg, Jackson Pollock. 16 mm color film, released 1951.

things experienced in America Matthew Baigell, Thomas Hart Benton (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1975), p. 78.

[Benton] has lifted art Jackson Pollock to LeRoy Pollock, 3 February 1933.

In 1933 he watched Rivera Written statement by Lillian Meyer Emanuel, undated (Spring 2001), Pollock-Krasner Study Center archives, courtesy of her daughter Madeleine Maxwell. “Jackson and I would walk hand in hand all over Greenwich Village,” she recalled, “silently looking at buildings and birds flying up above. Sometimes he would take me to exhibits. I remember seeing Diego Riviera [sic] and Marc [sic] Rothko’s work.” (Rivera painted the New Workers School portable frescoes from July – December 1933. See Bertram D. Wolfe, Portrait of America by Diego Rivera [New York: Covici, Friede, Inc., 1934], p. 31.) Pollock painted a watercolor portrait of her, which she gave away. Their relationship failed due in part to his drinking. “I remember him well,” she wrote, “with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He was a western man and I was an easterner from Brooklyn. He did attract and fascinate me.”

frescoed a wall of the clay room Transcribed audiotaped interview with Nathaniel Kaz (aka Katz), Saga archives, Book 16:731/6. Although remnants of the frescos are still extant, it is not known which portions may be by Pollock.

a laboratory for experiment Laurance P. Hurlburt, “The Siqueiros Experimental Workshop: New York, 1936,” Art Journal XXXV/3 (Spring 1976), p. 239.

We… embedded wood… ‘controlled accidents’ Hurlburt, pp. 241-242.

a key experience… mature painting style Jürgen Harten, Siqueiros / Pollock:Pollock / Siqueiros (Düsseldorf: Kunsthalle Düsseldorf/DuMont, 1995), p. 47, quoting a letter from Charles Pollock to Francis V. O’Connor, footnoted in O’Connor’s article, “The Genesis of Jackson Pollock, 1912-1943,” Artforum 5:2 (1967), p. 23.

FOCUS 1: Untitled (Self-Portrait), ca. 1930-33

only three known self-portraits The other two are a sketchbook drawing, ca. 1933-38, and the right side of Portrait and a Dream, 1953. See Ruth Kligman, Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock (New York: 1974), p. 104.

painting and sculpturing is life it self Jackson Pollock to Stella Pollock, May 1932.

the only American master Questionnaire, Arts & Architecture (February 1944), p. 14.

Orozco is the real artist Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1989), p. 143.

interpretation of the constructive … spiritual bondage Albert I. Dickerson, ed. Orozco Frescoes at Dartmouth (Hanover, NH: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 1962), p 5.

FOCUS 2: The Flame, ca. 1936-38

legendary self-sacrifice See the entry on Collective Suicide at

the vitality of this exhibition A. Hyatt Mayor, “The Artists for Victory Exhibition,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Dec., 1942), p. 141.



they have to eat Francis V. O’Connor, Federal Support for the Visual Arts: The New Deal and Now (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968), p. 17. The project began in August 1935 and after several reorganizations was terminated in January 1943.

You’ve got the stuff Thomas Hart Benton to Jackson Pollock, undated (Friday) [ca. 1937].

Rebecca Tarwater Their relationship is described in Naifeh and Smith, Saga,pp. 303-306.

Every great experience Jolande Jacobi, ed., Psychological Reflections: An Anthology of the Writings of C.G. Jung (New York: Pantheon Books/Bollingen Foundation, 1953), p. 38.

to overcome Picasso Clement Greenberg, “American-Type Painting,” reprinted in Art and Culture: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), p. 210.

going into a total rage Lee Krasner, interview with Emily Wasserman, 9 January 1968.–286258

I simply paint the life 

FOCUS 3: Birth, ca. 1941

You have an interest Transcribed interview with Reuben Kadish, Saga archives, Book 15:681/3.

I have always been impressed… memories and enthusiasms Questionnaire, Arts & Architecture.



pure psychic automatism… play of thought Translated in William S. Rubin, Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1968), p 64.

exciting as all hell Jackson Pollock to Charles Pollock, 29 July 1943.

When I first exhibited Pollock Guggenheim, Art Addict, p. 315.

obscurantism Edward Alden Jewell, The New York Times, 14 November 1943, Sec. 2, p. 6.

mud abounds Clement Greenberg, “Art,” The Nation, 27 November 1943, p. 621.

childishly scribbled Eleanor Jewett, “Contrast Sharp in Art Club’s 2 New Exhibits,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 March 1945.

pother of paint Howard Devree, “Among the New Exhibitions,” The New York Times, 25 March 1945, Sec. 2, p. 8.

in Jackson Pollock’s abstract Robert M. Coates, “The Art Galleries: From Moscow to Harlem,” The New Yorker, 29 May 1943, p. 49.

going in too many directions… by an American Greenberg, The Nation, ibid.

bowled over “Jackson Pollock: Portrait,” Strokes of Genius. Los Angeles: Direct Cinema Ltd., 1984.

extravagantly… romantic Jewell, ibid.

good European moderns… the unconscious Questionnaire, Arts & Architecture.

FOCUS 4: Mural, 1943

corralled [the stampede’s] energy Francis V. O’Connor, “Jackson Pollock’s Mural for Peggy Guggenheim: Its Legend, Documentation, and Redefinition of Wall Painting,” in Susan Davidson and Philip Rylands, eds., Peggy Guggenheim & Frederick Kiesler: The Story of Art of This Century (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2004), p. 163.

A colourful legend Davidson and Rylands, Story, pp. 151ff. See also Carol C. Mancusi-Ungaro’s discussion of the mural’s facture in Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel, eds., Jackson Pollock: New Approaches (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999), pp. 117-118. Additional technical analysis confirming these conclusions was carried out in 2012-14 by the Getty Conservation Institute. See Yvonne Szafran, et. al., Jackson Pollock’s Mural: The Transitional Moment. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2014.

FOCUS 5: Stenographic Figure, ca. 1942

improvisational scanning William S. Rubin, “Pollock as Jungian Illustrator: The Limits of Psychological Criticism,” Art in America, Vol. 67 (1979), reprinted in Pepe Karmel, ed., Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles, and Reviews (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999), pp. 248-249. Rubin convincingly refutes interpretations of the painting that identify two figures, the female on the left facing a male standing on the right. He points out that “Stenographic Figure contains but one protagonist (female and animalistic),” and argues against “forced readings” of Pollock’s numerological symbolism.

noughts-and-crosses grid This is the British term for tic-tac-toe. Phaidon Press, a London-based publisher, has also changed various words (e.g. color, fiberboard, favorite, program) to British spellings, except in the title of Harbor and Lighthouse.



Praising the exhibition Clement Greenberg, “Art,” The Nation, 1 February 1947, p. 139.

Pollock’s aim in painting Manny Farber, “Jackson Pollock,” The New Republic 112:6 (25 June 1945), p. 871.

I want to express my feelings Wright interview.

the resistance of a hard surface Jackson Pollock, “My painting,” problems of contemporary art:possibilities 1 (Winter 1947/8), p. 79.

The floor is right for me Helen A. Harrison, ed., Such Desperate Joy: Imagining Jackson Pollock (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2000), p. 92. Quotes from this source are from Jeffrey Potter’s notes of conversations with Pollock.

A hallmark of this new approach For an in-depth analysis of this phenomenon, see Francis V. O’Connor, “Jackson Pollock’s Monumentality: The Small Poured Works, 1943 to 1950,” in Jackson Pollock: Small Poured Works 1943-1950 (exhib. cat.), Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, 2006, pp. 1-24.

organic intensity Handwritten statement, ca. 1950.

FOCUS 6: Alchemy, 1947

Ralph Manheim Friedman, Energy Made Visible, pp. 119-120.

magic number Judith Wolfe, “Jungian Aspects of Jackson Pollock’s Imagery,” Artforum XI:3 (November 1972), p. 71.



memories arrested in space Handwritten statement, ca. 1950.

The thing that interests me… arriving at a statement Wright interview.

a mop of tangled hair Emily Genauer, “This Week in Art,” New York World-Telegram, 7 February 1949, p. 19.

a child’s contour map [Alexander Eliot], “Art: Words,” Time, 7 February 1949, p. 51.

an advanced stage Sam Hunter, “Among the New Shows,” The New York Times, 30 January 1949, Sec. 2, p. 9. Like Parker Tyler, who wrote in “Nature and Madness among the Younger Painters” (View V, May 1945)that “Pollock does not seem to be especially talented, there being too much of an air of baked-macaroni about some of his patterns,” Hunter would later reverse himself on the merits of Pollock’s work. Tyler’s “Jackson Pollock: The Infinite Labyrinth” (Magazine of Art, March 1950), describes the poured paintings as “beautiful and subtle patterns of pure form,” while Hunter’s 1956 catalogue essay for the Museum of Modern Art’s memorial exhibition concludes that they “testify to a fresh birth in the realm of contemporary art” and display “a deep and moving lyricism.” Sam Hunter, “Jackson Pollock,” The Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. XXIV, no. 2 (1956-57).

filled the part of a famous artist Marvin Jay Pollock to Frank Pollock, 3 December 1950.

I decided to stop Berton Roueché, “Unframed Space,” The New Yorker (5 August 1950), p.16.

Hans Namuth For an account of their meeting and the subsequent photography and filming session, see Hans Namuth, “Photographing Pollock,” in Barbara Rose et. al., Pollock Painting (New York: Agrinde Publications Ltd., 1978), n.p.

FOCUS 7: Number 1, 1949

distinguished critics… in this country “A Life Round Table on Modern Art,” Life (11 October 1948), pp. 56-62.

Two of Holmes’s pictures [George Hunt], “Jackson Pollock: Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Life (8 August 1949), pp. 42, 45. Although Dorothy Seiberling is usually credited with having written this article, she was in fact a staff researcher who contributed background material, including the interview with Pollock, to Hunt’s article. Seiberling later became Life magazine’s art editor.

FOCUS 8: Number 29, 1950

I wanted to show Namuth, “Photographing Pollock.”



I’ve had a period of drawing Jackson Pollock to Alfonso Ossorio, 7 June 1951.

images full of the compulsion Alfonso Ossorio, Jackson Pollock 1951. Exhibition brochure. New York: Betty Parsons Gallery, 26 November – 15 December 1951.

When you’re painting Rodman, Conversations, p. 82.

a dead end O’Connor, Jackson Pollock, p. 63.

life and work are one Harrison, Such Desperate Joy, p. 92.

they’re an impractical size Wright interview.

If Pollock were a Frenchman Clement Greenberg, “Art Chronicle: Feeling Is All,” Partisan Review 19:1 (January–February 1952), p. 97.

Recognized immediately… such energy! Jeffrey Potter, To a Violent Grave: An Oral Biography of Jackson Pollock (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1985),    p. 125.

With me it’s only my chemistry Harrison, Such Desperate Joy, p. 90.

“caressed” the canvas Interview, “Jackson Pollock: Portrait,” Strokes of Genius. The video mistakenly illustrates Lavender Mist, which also features Pollock’s hand prints but was painted two years after Mercedes Matter observed him at work. In conversation during the 1990s, she confirmed that the painting to which she referred is Number 1A, 1948.

FOCUS 9: Number 8, 1951 / “Black Flowing”

so remote as to be undefined Michel Tapié, “Jackson Pollock avec nous,” Jackson Pollock. Exhibition brochure. Paris: Studio Paul Facchetti, 7 – 31 March 1952.

a very bad substitute Lee Krasner interviewed by Dorothy G. Seckler for the Archives of American Art, 2 November 1964. Transcription at

FOCUS 10: Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952

failed picture Anthony White, ed., Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles (Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2002), p. 39, n. 48.

claims that Pollock’s colleagues Stanley P. Friedman, “Loopholes in ‘Blue Poles’,” New York, 29 October 1973, pp. 48-51.

just kept saying Barbara Rose, “Jackson Pollock at Work: An Interview with Lee Krasner,” Partisan Review XLVII:1 (1980), p. 89.



diagnosed with an enlarged liver Interview (19 September 2006) by the author with Howard Zucker, M.D., who conducted Pollock’s physical examination during treatment for alcoholism in early 1951. Under the care of Ruth Fox, a psychiatrist who specialized in treating alcoholics (see Naifeh and Smith, Saga, pp. 660-661), Pollock was briefly admitted to a private clinic in New York City. Dr. Zucker, who was training under Dr. Fox, questioned Pollock about his medical history and discussed his successful treatment by Edwin Heller, M.D., an East Hampton general practitioner, who had kept Pollock sober for two years, from late 1948 until late 1950, with a combination of straight talk and tranquilizers. In addition to diagnosing Pollock’s cirrhotic liver, Dr. Zucker noted hardened lumps below both of his kneecaps. When he asked Pollock about them, the artist answered, “I paint on my knees.”

Alcohol frees the unconscious Harrison, Such Desperate Joy, p. 90.

painting is self-discovery Rodman, Conversations, p. 82.

periods of prolonged inactivity Hunter, Bulletin, pp. 5-6.

for three or four years Jackson Pollock to LeRoy Pollock, 3 February 1933.

two small plaster pieces Both are illustrated and discussed in Jackson Pollock & Tony Smith Sculpture. Exhibition catalogue. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 7 September – 27 October 2012.

pieces of Pollock… painter of the past Bruno Alfieri, “‘Guatzabulli’ di Jackson Pollock,” Jackson Pollock. Exhibition catalogue. Museo Correr, July-August 1950 (Venice: Le Tre Mani), p. 8. Reprinted as “Piccolo discorso sui quadri di Jackson Pollock,” L’Arte Moderna, Venice (8 June 1950),translated in Karmel, Interviews, Articles, and Reviews, p. 69.

The young artist of today Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Art News 57:6 (October 1958), p. 57.