On August 8, 1949, Life magazine published an article with the headline “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” Calling the thirty-seven-year-old artist “the shining new phenomenon of American art,” Life not only celebrated Pollock’s rapid rise among...
On August 8, 1949, Life magazine published an article with the headline “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” Calling the thirty-seven-year-old artist “the shining new phenomenon of American art,” Life not only celebrated Pollock’s rapid rise among the avant-garde, but also acknowledged Abstract Expressionism, of which Pollock was the leading representative, as the premier American style. Troubled Queen is a masterful transitional work from the Regionalist figurative paintings of Pollock’s early years to the passionate “drip” paintings for which he is best known. Born in Wyoming, Pollock was trained in art schools in California before enrolling in the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton’s [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Thomas%20Hart%20Benton] classes at New York City’s legendary Art Students League. His earliest works were in the Romantic landscape tradition, populated with stylized figures that echo Benton’s. But both the literalism and the rhythmic flowing shapes of these pictures soon gave way to a more turbulent style, marked by jagged lines; harsh, acid colors; and above all imagery that was symbolic, enigmatic, and abstract. The sources for these images were the work of Pablo Picasso [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?artist=Pablo%20Picasso] (whose landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1939 made a strong impression on Pollock), primitive art, and the theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung [2008.181, 1988.152, 2003.807] (Pollock had begun analysis in the late 1930s). But Pollock’s approach was stunningly original. By the mid-1940s Pollock had evolved a style that drew images from his subconscious, rendering them in a highly textured bravura technique. As Troubled Queen shows, Pollock had begun to work in a very large scale by this time; his paint was dragged over, dripped on, and flung at the canvas. His subject matter was no less highly wrought: emerging from the churning coils and jagged lines of this life-sized canvas are two facelike forms, one a leering mask, the other a one-eyed diamond shape. Their nightmarish presences reflect not only Pollock’s agitated psyche but also the years of violence that had torn the world apart through war. In a few years, all traces of the figure would drop out of Pollock’s work, and as Life predicted, his style—overlapping skeins of paint expressing deep feeling—would make New York the center of the international avant-garde. This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).
Lower right: Jackson Pollock; Reverse: Jackson Pollock 11-45.
1945, Mrs. Hilda Loveman Wilson, Larchmont, N.Y. Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Hahn, N.Y. McCrory Corporation, N. Y. Private collection, N. Y. By 1984, Stephen Hahn Gallery, N. Y.; 1984, sold by the Stephen Hahn Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 21, 1984)
Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund and Gift of Mrs. Albert J. Beveridge and Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection, by exchange
© 2011 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York