Jackson Pollock 51: Short Film Captures the Painter Creating Abstract Expressionist Art

In the sum­mer of 1950, Hans Namuth approached Jack­son Pol­lock and asked the abstract expres­sion­ist painter if he could pho­to­graph him in his stu­dio, work­ing with his “drip” tech­nique of paint­ing. When Namuth arrived, he found:

A drip­ping wet can­vas cov­ered the entire floor. Blind­ing shafts of sun­light hit the wet can­vas, mak­ing its sur­face hard to see. There was com­plete silence.… Pol­lock looked at the paint­ing. Then unex­pect­ed­ly, he picked up can and paint­brush and start­ed to move around the can­vas. It was as if he sud­den­ly real­ized the paint­ing was not fin­ished. His move­ments, slow at first, grad­u­al­ly became faster and more dance­like as he flung black, white and rust-col­ored paint onto the can­vas.

The images from this shoot “helped trans­form Pol­lock from a tal­ent­ed, cranky lon­er into the first media-dri­ven super­star of Amer­i­can con­tem­po­rary art, the jeans-clad, chain-smok­ing poster boy of abstract expres­sion­ism,” one crit­ic lat­er wrote in The Wash­ing­ton Post.

But Namuth was­n’t sat­is­fied that he had real­ly cap­tured the essence of Pol­lock­’s work. He want­ed to cap­ture Pol­lock in motion and col­or, to focus on the painter and paint­ing alike.

Above, you can watch the result of Namuth’s sec­ond effort. The ten-minute film, sim­ply called Jack­son Pol­lock 51 (the 51 being short for 1951), lets you see Pol­lock paint­ing from a unique angle — through glass. The film achieved Namuth’s aes­thet­ic goals, but it came at a price. Appar­ent­ly the film­ing taxed Pol­lock emo­tion­al­ly, and by the evening, the painter decid­ed to pour him­self some bour­bon, his first drink in two years. A blowout argu­ment fol­lowed; Pol­lock nev­er stopped drink­ing again; and it was down­hill from there…

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

MoMA Puts Pol­lock, Rothko & de Koon­ing on Your iPad

John Berg­er’s Ways of See­ing: The TV Series

Steven Spiel­berg Admits Swal­low­ing a Tran­sis­tor to Andy Warhol

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Comments (13)
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  • steroids says:

    one of the great­est painters of last cen­tu­ry.

  • I’ve found that the best data sub­ject, thank you

  • John Conolley says:

    Artist as con­man? Or con­man as artist?

  • Signature Arts says:

    The post is nice nshare such post it’s use­ful

  • Vegas Ericka-lockett says:

    I enjoyed the short film. we are study­ing Pol­lock in art his­to­ry class

  • NikFromNYC says:

    “If you are one of those who believe that mod­ern art has sur­passed Ver­meer and Raphael, don’t read this book, just go right on in your bliss­ful idio­cy.” ‑Sal­vador Dalí (50 Secrets Of Mag­ic Crafts­man­ship, 1948)

    “Cézanne is the finest expres­sions of this deca­dence. He was tru­ly unable to imi­tate the mas­ter­pieces and all of his admired tech­nique is mere­ly proof of his inabil­i­ty. His apples are made of cement. The para­dox is that what is least admirable is most admired: nul­li­ty! What a sym­bol for a peri­od! On the pre­text of the aca­d­e­m­ic being detestable, the worst in the class was made a hero! He opens the door to the ethics of shit! New­ness at what­ev­er costs and art becomes just a latrine! The log­ic of this search for new­ness leads to the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of total shit of which Cézanne is the high priest.” — Sal­vador Dalí (Dalí on Mod­ern Art, 1957)

  • T.W. Brady says:

    Enjoyed the Pol­lock Doc, it helped to get a clear­er view of the artists intent.

  • Miriam says:

    Try­ing to find a good open cul­ture film found Pol lock! Poor stu­dens those who believe what the pro­fes­sor says .What is there good to study or view in Pol­lock or so called mod­ern artists? A wc in the mid­dle of a gallery when they are incaple of even draw­ing a human bone? Come on , lets go back to the ori­gins.

  • Reginald says:

    Pol­lock died at the age of 44 in an alco­hol-relat­ed sin­gle-car acci­dent when he was dri­ving Ruth Klig­man, also an artist and his mis­tress. She man­aged to sur­vive.

  • Garreth Byrne says:

    His modus operan­di explains a lot.

  • Roberto Zenit says:

    Do you know who holds the copy­right of this film? I’d like to use an image from the film for a sci­en­tif­ic paper.

  • chris g says:

    Very sad. And whom, Mr. Dali, has stood the test of time? A clever illus­tra­tor of con­trived jux­ta­po­si­tion or a painter who influ­ence and work trans­formed west­ern art for all time. Gen­er­a­tions of artists acknowl­edge Cezanne as their start­ing point. Dali beget a gen­er­a­tion of pane com­ic artists.
    Be care­ful who you cri­tique, in this case Dal­i’s sur­re­al­ism has failed to with­stand past the whims of ado­les­cent gaw­ping.

  • Anurag Sharma says:

    His modus operan­di explains a lot. Very well explained.

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