Watch This: Jackson Pollock’s Mural: The Story of a Modern Masterpiece

I love art history, and, over the years, have particularly enjoyed learning about mid-century, modern artists. I’ve read biographies on Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock  and others. The art world of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s was alive with experimentation, and the public and culture at large was paying attention to art in an unprecedented way. Artists were receiving media coverage on par with actors and musicians.

I recently watched a brief PBS documentary on a Jackson Pollock mural commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim. The hour-long piece includes interviews with a variety of art historians, shows the restoration of the piece, and explores what was going on during the period when the piece was created.

Thanks to Dave Newman for recommending the documentary!

You can watch the documentary here.

What do you Think?

Did you enjoy the documentary? How do you feel about mid-century modern art? Share your thoughts and comments below!

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18 Comments

  1. Hi Jason — I haven’t watched this yet but I will. Thanks! Last night I watched a special on Public TV about Rothko. Very stimulating! I love “modern” art .

    Several years ago I produced this piece called Modernist Movement celebrating this moment when new ideas and assumptions changed the world of art.

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  2. Thank you for posting this. Pollock is one of my all time inspirations. This documentary overlaps wonderfully with book I’m reading about this time period Ninth Street Women. Both have me nodding my head and saying “oh yeah!”

      1. I read Ninth Street Women a few months ago and LOVED it. Also, it was so cool because I used to live on Ninth Street and University Place at 30 East Ninth. I wish I had known the history of the street then!

    1. I saw this documentary on the new pbs channel called “All Arts.” If your cable company doesn’t carry it, you should request that they do. Awesome programs you won’t see often on regular pbs channels. I loved how Peggy Guggenheim was getting impatient after waiting months. Pollock was stuck and she threatened to cancel the commission. Pollock then just whipped this enormous mural out! He used house paint, whatever he had on hand. The work screams motion and the fluidity of the changing times.

  3. I have had to consider Pollock since my aesthetics course in 1966. It has been quite a consideration to say the least.
    Contrary to many (maybe most) that period of about 20 years with all those artists in close proximity, wrestling with their paintings, their ideas, each other I consider to be a kind of “end of times renaissance.” It has seemed that the course of pure painting had run into the wall. That is my assertion. They were painting from within a damaged psyche, individually and collectively. think of 1953- 7 years after the devastation of World War 2, the full fledged nuclear annihilation age, and a Korean conflict- the actual representation of Stalin’s “no peace no war” diplomatic statement. (we live under that still). What would we expect our artists to paint?
    But there’s more. Pollock did not just sling paint. those photographs of his studio with all those cans and jars of paint around the canvas. Where do you suppose they came from? It has been stated that he would sit for days- contemplating (some say staring) the empty canvas on the barn floor in East Hampton. What was going on? Those two questions are enough for a decade of consideration.
    Sorry to take so much space, Jason. The documentary was riveting. (Art has become difficult after the Ab Ex experience and our confused society – editorial)

    1. I agree with many of Stephen’s comments.I read a historical fiction of sorts called The Muralist that felt so real. It lets the reader feel and understand what Pollack and his contemporaries were experiencing during the timeframe where they were wrestling with their world and their art. Very interesting insight.

  4. Have you ever read the CIA connection with helping to promote the Ab EX art movement throughout the world? Fascinating and those artists were so lucky to be working right then! Plus many also got regular government money to continuing working as artists as part of the New Deal project early int heir careers.

  5. Thanks for showing the video. Memories. Many years ago, after seeing a photo of bald headed Pollock with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, in a white tee shirt and crouching over a painting, I thought that I could splash dance like he did. But I didn’t smoke or drink like he did. And, I probably did not have the talent. But I bought five pints of basic color, house paints. In a tin shed in my parents’ back yard I dripped and dipped colored drops on the wide white canvas. I still have them as amateur memories to compare with my later paintings.
    I enjoyed hearing about Pollock in the video.
    A good source book covers Pollock’s time with the other artists and critics in Manhattan.
    “New Art City” Manhattan at Mid -Century by Jed Pearl

  6. Hi Jason:

    Thanks for the wonderful documentary in one of Pollock Art Work. He is one of the artists from the Expressionism Movement that have influenced a lot my art work. He was very innovative, futurist in his method, and for me a brilliant artist.

  7. Thanks for the video link, Jason. I just finished watching it. I, too, just finished
    reading “Ninth Street Women” for the second time. I raced through it the first
    and went back for all the detailed information – a wonderful history of that time.

  8. Stunning that we perpetually revere the same white male painters. Glad you’re looking at Ninth Street. During this same period plenty of black artists were creating new ways of painting as well. I’m a white female but found my freedom and new direction when I encountered Jacob Lawrence’s Migration in D.C.

  9. I very much enjoyed this “ biography “ of Pollack’s Mural. The film also took me back in time on a personal journey to my undergraduate days as a late sixties art student in the Midwest. One of my most beloved and influential professors came out of that Iowa school on the GI bill post WW2. Several pilgrimages were made there from our central Illinois university in the dead of winter to see their printmaking department.
    I came to appreciate abstract expressionism more deeply in the 90’s when teaching some high school students about this movement. They started out with the common “ anybody could do that” attitude and then reversed their outlook after trying to emulate those painters and thereby discovering the real depths of ab/ ex.

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