Breaking It Up
The Irascibles
Reminder! Quiz 1 must be submitted on Canvas before midnight tonight. :0)
"The Irascibles" from 1950, published in Life Magazine, January 15, 1951.
"How 'Irascible' Abstract Expressionists Stared Down the Met-and Changed Art History"
From left to right seated:  Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko;
Standing:  Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin











Abstract Expressionism = term used to describe a wide variety of work produced in New York between 1940 and 1960
  • The term was first used in Germany to describe works by Wassily Kandinsky.
  • The New Yorker's art critic, Robert Coates applied the term to newly emerging works in 1946.
  • The name acknowledges, two important strains of modern art:

Abstraction = works that emphasize a non-representational formalist approach

Expressionism = works that seek/understand an emotional response from both the artist and the viewer

Lee Krasner, Cornucopia, 1958.











Franz Kline, Cardinal, c. 1950.
Isamu Noguchi, The Kiss, 1945.

Twilight Sounds

Grace Hartigan, Autumn Harvest, 1959.
Norman Lewis, Twilight Sounds, 1947.











Characteristics of the New York School:

  • Interest in Surrealist automatist techniques
  • Influenced by the Mexican muralists
  • "Modern Man" = notion that man is fundamentally irrational and driven by unknowable forces from within and without
  • Participated in the Federal Art Project
  • Insisted on the individual worth of each of their expressions
Janet Sobel, Milky Way, 1945.












"At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act - rather than a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or express an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event." - Harold Rosenberg in The American Action Painters (1952)
Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947.











Going West
Thomas Hart Benton, unknown title and date.

Jackson Pollock, Going West, c. 1934 - 1935.









Pollock in front of blank canvas

Pollock standing in front of blank canvas for Mural











Peggy Guggenheim with Jackson Pollock standing in front of Mural with her dogs, 1943.











"Every so often, a painter has to destroy painting. Cezanne did it, Picasso did it with Cubism. Then Pollock did it.
He busted our idea of a picture all to hell. Then there could be new paintings again." - Willem De Kooning



Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943. 8' X 19'.











Number 1

Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1949.











What's so innovative about Jackson Pollock's drip paintings?
  • Painted horizontally, on the floor
Pollock working
  • Used house paint and sticks instead of traditional artist's materials
  • Works intuitively with an automatist technique
automatism = technique whereby the usual intellectual control of the artist over the brush is foregone. The artist's aim is to allow the subconscious to create the artwork without rational reference.
  • Considers space in a completely new way
  • Rejects Renaissance perspective
  • All-over composition
  • Painted gestures move across the picture plane instead of attempting the illusion of moving through it
  • The painter painting becomes the painting's subject
"He transformed the obligation for social relevance, a pervasive current between the wars, into an unrelenting moral commitment to a search for the self." - Jonathan Fineberg
Jackson Pollock at work, 1950











"The most powerful painter in contemporary America and the only one who promises to be a major one is a Gothic, morbid, and extreme disciple of Picasso's Cubism and Miró's post-Cubism, tinctured also with Kandinsky and surrealist inspiration. His name is Jackson Pollock." - Clement Greenberg in 1947


August 8, 1949 issue of Life Magazine











"Rosenberg introduced the term "action painting" into the vocabulary of art history in 1952, in reference to Pollock's approach and process" (Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, 18).
"The painter no longer approached his easel with an image in his mind; he went up to it with material in his hand to do something to that other piece of material in front of him. The image would be the result of this encounter" (Harold Rosenberg in The American Action Painters).
Jackson Pollock, Alchemy, 1947.











Pollock's and Krasner's barn studio floor, preserved





















"My opinion is that new needs need new techniques…the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio in the old forms of the Renaissance…the modern artist is living in a mechanical age…working and expressing an inner world - in other words, expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces." - Jackson Pollock

Autumn rhythm

Pablo Picasso, The Women of Algiers, 1955.
Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950.











Pollock and Krasner in the studio

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the studio, 1949.











The Third Hand

Hans Hofmann:
"You don't work from nature.  You work by heart. This is no good.  You will repeat yourself."
Jackson Pollock: 
"I am nature... Put up or shut up.  Your theories don't interest me."
Hans Hofmann, The Third Hand, 1947.











Highest praise given to Krasner by Hofmann:
"This painting is so good you'd never know it was done by a woman."

Image Surfacing


Lee Krasner, Image Surfacing, c. 1945.
Hans Hofmann, Bachanale, 1946.











In 2004, Image Surfacing sold at auction for $153,000.
In 2015, David Geffen sold Pollock's No. 17A to (hedge fund manager) Kenneth C. Griffin in a private sale, for $200 million, making it the 5th most expensive work.

Image Surfacing

Lee Krasner, Image Surfacing, c. 1945.
Jackson Pollock, No. 17A, 1948.











Lee Krasner, Shattered Color, 1947.
Lee Krasner, Mosaic, 1947.











Lee Krasner, The City, 1953. 48 X 36 inches
Lee Krasner, Birth, 1956. 83 X 48 inches.












Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock, 1950.











Lee Krasner, The Seasons, 1957. 7 3/4' X 17'.