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Jackson Pollock

(1912—1956) American painter

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US abstract expressionist painter, who developed the style known as action painting.

Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, and moved to southern California when he was thirteen. He studied painting at the Art Students' League in New York and in the 1930s produced realistic work, mainly in the manner of the regionalists. From 1938 to 1942 Pollock was employed on the Federal Arts Project and in 1940 he had his first exhibition, together with Willem de Kooning.

Pollock's style moved away from realism in the 1940s but it was not until 1947 that he developed the method of painting that, over the next four years, brought him recognition as the leading figure in the abstract expressionist movement. This method, known as ‘action painting’, involved tacking a large sheet of canvas to the floor or wall, then pouring or spattering paint over it in rhythmic movements, covering the entire canvas and avoiding any point of emphasis in the picture (known as the ‘all over’ style). Occasionally the paint was thickened with sand or broken glass. Brushes were replaced by sticks, trowels, and knives. Thus the canvas became an arena in which the artist's unconscious emotions could be acted out. Pollock continued to paint in this style until his death in a motor accident. His wife, Lee Krasner (1908–84), was also an important painter in the abstract expressionist style.

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