Number 10, 1949
Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
46.04 x 272.41 cm (18 1/8 x 107 1/4 in.)
Medium or Technique
Alkyd (synthetic paint) and oil on canvas mounted on panel
Not On View
Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings revolutionized the field of abstract art when they first appeared in 1947. Over the course of that decade, Pollock had begun to move beyond the stylized figures and Regional landscapes of Thomas Hart Benton [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Thomas%20Hart%20Benton], with whom he studied in the 1930s. In transitional works like Troubled Queen [1984.749], Pollock plastered large canvasses with dense layers of interwoven color that was brushed, dripped, and flung onto the canvas. Slashes of graphic black and white lines fracture the space of the canvas. Still, Pollock retained some representational content—monstrous faces emerge out of the miasma of color and line. By the time he painted Number 10, 1949, however, he had entered a new and entirely abstract phase.
Pollock purged his work of all figurative and representational elements. Laying his canvas to the floor and standing over it, he dripped medium from his brush in rhythmic strokes, covering the entire surface in a dense network of interacting forms and gestural lines. Pollock’s innovation went beyond his handling of the paint—he also used multiple varieties and brands to achieve the complex, multilayered surfaces of his dripped and poured artworks. Number 10, 1949 includes oil, enamel, and aluminum paints, many of which were manufactured as industrial coatings. The dull matte finish of the puddled aluminum paint (the metallic appearance is enhanced by the inclusion of aluminum flakes) contrasts starkly with the glistening black enamel, generating a dynamic sense of energy and motion.
Pollock’s new technique had roots in Surrealist experiments with the unconscious; Pollock claimed that when he was creating such a painting, he was in a trancelike state, unaware of what he was doing. Chance and accident played a role too: the finished surface includes embedded bits of plaster, dried paint chips, string, and even insects. The resulting pure abstractions made Pollock the definitive artist of his generation and helped catapult a small group of painters, known variously as the New York School or the Abstract Expressionists, to international fame.
Lower right, partly obscured by overpaint: J[ackso]n P[olloc]k 49; Reverse: Jackson Pollock/49/49-111/Totem
1949, the artist. Alfonso A. Ossorio, East Hampton, N.Y.; Robert Elkon Gallery, N. Y.; 1971, sold by the Robert Elkon Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 8, 1971)
Tompkins Collection—Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund and Sophie M. Friedman Fund
© 2011 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.