“On the floor I am more at ease,” he once wrote. “I feel nearer, more part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”
During his lifetime Pollock was famously photographed creating these seminal works, known as drip or action paintings. His process and his canvases have been so extensively studied that it would seem there could be nothing else to learn. Yet a 10-month examination and restoration of his “One: Number 31, 1950,” by conservators at the Museum of Modern Art, have produced new insights about how the artist worked. The conservators also revealed a mysterious missing chapter in the painting’s history.
Restoring “One” has been on MoMA’s to-do list since 1998 when the work — often called a masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism — was featured in a retrospective. Seen in the context of paintings from the same period, “One” showed its age, with its canvas yellowing and years of dirt and dust in its crevices.
But it wasn’t until last July that work finally started. And almost a year later, on Tuesday, “One” will be rehung in its place on the museum’s fourth floor, considerably cleaner and its conservators a bit wiser.
Pollock’s drip paintings are complex, highly textured compositions with multiple coats of dripped and poured paint. In some areas paint is applied so thinly it seems to just stain the canvas. In others the paint is denser, with colors blending, swirling and bleeding together. There are also places where the paint has a smooth, glossy surface, and places where Pollock applied paint so thickly that it dried like curdled milk, with a puckered, wrinkled surface.
But when the conservators started to study these layers with X-rays and ultraviolet lights, certain portions of the canvas didn’t resemble Pollock’s style of painting at all. The texture was different, suggesting repetitive brush strokes not seen elsewhere in his work.
They found household enamel paint known to have been used by Pollock, but they also discovered a synthetic resin that Pollock was not known to have used.
How had it gotten there? Records showed that nobody at the museum had touched the painting since it entered MoMA’s collection in 1968. And there was no evidence that it had been restored before coming to MoMA.
Museum officials did know that “One” had once belonged to Ben Heller, a dealer and a close friend of Pollock’s. The painting had also been in a traveling exhibition in the early 1960s. When they began researching that show they unearthed crucial evidence: a photograph taken in 1962 by a scholar in Portland, Ore., revealed that the painting had none of the questionable, uncharacteristic areas they had discovered.
“That meant they were added after 1962,” Mr. Coddington said. “And since Pollock died in 1956, those photographs confirmed they were put there after his death.” It is still unclear, however, who added them and why?.(more here NYTimes)
Jackson Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting.
During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety, a major artist of his generation. Regarded as reclusive, he had a volatile personality, and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945, he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy.
Pollock died at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related, single-car accident; he was driving. In December 1956, several months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held there in 1967. In 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at The Tate in London.