This Day in History… August 11, 1956

Death of Jackson Pollock 

U.S. #3186h was based on a photo of Pollock from Life magazine.

Jackson Pollock died on August 11, 1956, in Springs, New York.

The artist known as “Jack the Dripper” was born Paul Jackson Pollock in Cody, Wyoming on January 28, 1912.

Raised in Arizona and California, Pollock grew up with a fondness and appreciation for Native American culture due to his frequent surveying trips with his father. In 1930, Pollock moved to New York City where he studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League.

While Pollock had little interest in Benton’s rural American subject matter, he was greatly influenced by his teacher’s rhythmic painting style. In the coming years, Pollock’s observations of Indian sand painting, Mexican muralists, and surrealists influenced his artistic style.

U.S. #3186h FDC – 1999 Pollock First Day Cover.

In 1938, Pollock began working with the WPA Federal Art Project, a New Deal program that hired artists to create murals, paintings, sculpture, posters, and more. He remained with the WPA on and off until 1942. After that he signed a gallery contract with Peggy Guggenheim and held his first exhibition that was described as “volcanic. It has fire. It is unpredictable. It is undisciplined. It spills out of itself in a mineral prodigality, not yet crystallized.”

U.S. #4444d pictures Pollock’s 1952 painting, Convergence.

Pollock’s most famous paintings came from his “drop period” between 1947 and 1950. Pollock found he preferred to lay large canvases on the floor so he could walk around his work, viewing and painting from all directions. His technique included dripping house paint on the canvas and moving it around with hardened brushes and sticks. Employing this technique, Pollock used color, line, shape, texture, brushstroke, and light to express emotion.

U.S. #4444d FDC – Pollock 2010 First Day Cover.

Pollock became particularly famous after he was featured in a four-page spread in Life magazine in August 1949 that asked “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Then in 1950, Pollock abandoned his drip style and his paintings were darker in color and sought to find a balance between abstract and figural. Pollock eventually returned to using color and figures.

Pollock produced his last two paintings, Scent and Search in 1955. He spent his last year making sculptures. Then on August 11, 1956, Pollock died in a single-car crash while driving under the influence of alcohol.

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Click here to view a collection of Jackson Pollock paintings.

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