The Met is home to major works and sketchbooks by Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956). His unmistakable drip paintings are heralded the world over, appearing to many viewers just as intriguing—or shocking—as when they were first created.
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) in The Met collection (featured at top) is such a work. Created in 1950, it is among the largest of his classic drip paintings. Like similar masterworks of the period, it was made with enamel house paint that the artist looped and flung onto unprimed canvas on the floor—or simply poured straight from the can. The Met bought Autumn Rhythm directly from Pollock’s widow Lee Krasner in 1957; it is the subject of artist Robert Longo’s discussion in The Artist Project.
But the free-wheeling style that made Pollock an international art star was hard won. Before creating his first drip works at the age of 35, for many years the artist labored over figurative and abstract paintings that garnered little acclaim and few financial rewards. The Flame (ca. 1934–38), now owned by the Museum of Modern Art, was overlooked when it was shown at The Met in Artists for Victory, a 1942 exhibition that awarded prize money to John Sloan, Mark Tobey, Marsden Hartley, and others.
Pollock did not receive critical notice until early 1943, in a group show at Peggy Guggenheim’s new Art of This Century gallery in New York City. Of Stenographic Figure (ca. 1942, also owned by MoMA), the New Yorker critic Robert Coates wrote, “with its curious reminiscences of Matisse and Miró… We have a real discovery.”
Peggy Guggenheim became Pollock’s benefactor and offered him the November 1943 solo exhibition that would put him on the map. For the exhibition catalogue, art critic James John Sweeney wrote, “Pollock’s talent is volcanic. It has fire. It is unpredictable. It is undisciplined. It spills itself out in mineral prodigality not yet crystallized. It is lavish, explosive, untidy.” Though sales were few, the show was widely reviewed, finally giving an American avant-garde artist some serious commercial attention.
Four years later Pollock had devised his famous drip method, and by August 1949 he was the subject of a feature in Life magazine, which asked, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” The article made him a household name, rare for a contemporary artist.
Tragically, his life was cut short in a 1956 auto accident, but his legacy lives on at The Met and in museums around the globe. We are pleased to offer Pollock’s Number 28, 1950 at The Met Store as a poster reproduction here.