Jackson Pollock, often considered America's greatest modern painter, was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. He grew up in Arizona and California and studied art at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, eventually studying with the painter Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League in New York.
Pollock admired the Mexican muralists of the 1930s. These artists had a great influence on his work, particularly with regards to scale and social theme. Like many artists of the day, he found work through the WPA Federal Art Projects from 1935 to 1942. During these formative years of Abstract Expressionism, Pollock's role as leader came to be recognized. He had his first show at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, The Art of This Century, in 1943.
Pollock, who suffered from alcoholism and depression, underwent psychoanalysis for several years. His treatment fostered an interest in Carl Jung's theories of trans-historical archetypes that formed the basis of the artist's works, particularly from 1942 to 1947.
In the late 1940's, Pollock began to develop the technique of "action painting." Placing the canvas on the floor, he used brushes as implements to drip paint. This moment marks the greatest Abstract Expressionist achievement – symbolized by the Drip and a rejection of the traditional figure-ground relationship, often referred to as the Allover. In this process, Pollock challenged the entire Western easel tradition. In 1949, Life Magazine, placing Pollock on the cover, asked "Is This the Greatest American Painter?" catapulting Pollock and the Abstract Expressionist movement to the forefront.
Pollock saw several important exhibitions in his lifetime and numerous posthumous exhibitions have been held, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Tate Gallery, London. His work is included in the permanent collections of major museums such as The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; The Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Jackson Pollock died August 11, 1956.