screenshot from program

Art in Social Studies: Jackson Pollock

Today is the birthday of abstract expressionist trailblazer Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). His paintings, which were produced in a very specific place and time, began a movement in the art world that continues to this day. Explore his art and the context in which it was created by using the resources we’ve gathered here.

Start off with Art: Jackson Pollock Painting in WorldView Software’s American History II, pictured above.  It gives a brief introduction to Pollock’s technique and times.  Next, move on to some museum sites, which give more detailed description of his art works, and extensive online collections:

There is a web feature on the artist, his paintings, and his process from the national Gallery of Art here.  And both this essay from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History and this page from MoMA give more background on the place abstract expressionism holds in the world of art.

“Man Looking at Woman,” Adolph Gottlieb, (American, 1903–1974), 1949. Oil on canvas, 42 x 54″ (106.6 x 137.1 cm), MoMA

And finally, there is the national historic landmark Pollock Krasner House in The Springs on the east end of Long Island.  If you’re lucky enough to live in the area, you can tour the house and studio, where Pollock lived until his death in a car crash in 1956.  His wife, artist Lee Krasner, lived there until she passed away in 1984.

The house’s location near East Hampton is another important clue to the context in which Pollock worked: an area that had not yet begun to transition from potato farms and fishing into the summer playground of the rich and famous; close to New York City — the postwar center of the art world —  but still very rural; and in close proximity to other artists that would be associated with abstract expressionism in the “New York School” such as Ad Reinhardt, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Anne Ryan, Alfonso Ossorio, James Brooks, Frank O’Hara, Mark Rothko, sculptor Ibram Lassaw, and art critic Harold Rosenberg (who coined the term “action painting”).

James Brooks (American, 1906 – 1992) Untitled, 1952, Oil on Osnaburg cloth, 30 1/4 x 39 1/8 inches. Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, N.Y., Museum Purchase, Robert Lehman Fund and Friends of the Collection Fund, 1986.2.

Some additional questions to ask:

  • What was the guiding philosophy of the abstract expressionists?
  • How is abstract expressionism used today?  In what art forms is it used most often, and in what art forms is it used the least?  Why do you think this is the case?
  • Is there an art form that you think is being underutilized by abstract expressionists?  Which one?  How would you use it?
  • What “school” of art, movement, or style do you think best embodies the current moment in which we live?  List your reasons.
  • Is it possible for a viewer of a work to experience the same feelings as the artist that created the work?  How important is the viewer’s interpretation of a work?
  • What counts as art?  Why do you think that?

BulbgraphOnOffWrite unguided essay outlines together in class, using the guided essay model. Have class discuss and select main and supporting ideas.


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Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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