Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles

4 October 2002 - 27 January 2003

Claimed by many critics as the 'most influential American painter of the 20th century', Jackson Pollock first became a household name in Australia in 1973 when the Australian National Gallery took possession of his painting Blue Poles, Number II, 1952. The controversy that surrounded the purchase prompted a national tour of the painting to introduce it to the Australian public. Since that time Blue Poles has been permanently on view at the National Gallery of Australia, excluding a short sojourn to the major retrospective exhibition Jackson Pollock at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1998.

On his death in 1956, Jackson Pollock left a legacy of hundreds of works of art: paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. For the first time in Australia, a painting created at the zenith of his career, Blue Poles, will be located in the context of the artist's opus. Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles includes more than 50 works from international collections and the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

With a substantial proportion of works on paper from between 1937 and 1952, the exhibition offers an intimate yet broad view of Pollock's art leading up to the creation of Blue Poles. It also traces some of the most poignant moments in the career of this complex artist: efforts to master draftsmanship; parallels with the work of artists such as Picasso, Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco, and native American art; influence of environment upon the development of style, and of mentors Thomas Hart Benton and John Graham; struggle with emotional difficulties and the challenge of alcohol dependency.

Jackson Pollock was born in Wyoming, USA in 1912 into a farming family of five brothers, most of whom worked as artists at some time in their lives. He moved to New York in 1930 and attended the Art Students League where he studied clay modelling, life drawing, painting, and composition, and later took a class in stone carving. Through a government program to aid artists during the Depression years, Pollock was able to continue practising his art. By 1942, his work was shown beside modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and André Derain. He exhibited with the prestigious Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in New York where he had his first solo show the following year. Art critic, Clement Greenberg proclaimed Pollock to be the leading painter of his peer group of artists, which included Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

During this rise to international prominence, Pollock married long-time partner Lee Krasner in 1945, and moved from the crush of New York City to a small acreage at East Hampton, Long Island. Despite an ongoing battle with poverty and continuous bouts of ill health and personal tragedy, he figured largely in a campaign to legitimise and promote public reception of abstract art.

To complement the assemblage of Pollock artworks and reveal a little of the genius and fragility of Jackson Pollock the man and artist, Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles features a number of photographic stills of the artist, his studio and environment, and a film by Hans Namuth that centres on Pollock while painting.

Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles is presented in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of Blue Poles, and of the 20th anniversary of the opening of the National Gallery of Australia.

For further information please contact:
Dr Anthony White, Curator, International Paintings & Sculpture +61 2 6240 6434 or
Public Affairs, telephone +61 2 6240 643