JACKSON POLLOCK (1912-1956) Untitled (Drawing), circa 1952-56

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Lot 7
Untitled (Drawing), circa 1952-56

Sold for US$ 150,000 inc. premium
Untitled (Drawing), circa 1952-56

ink and ink wash on Howell paper

6 3/4 x 10 in.
17.1 x 25.4 cm


  • Provenance
    Estate of the artist.
    Collection of Lee Krasner Pollock, New York.
    Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York.
    Collection of Jason McCoy, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986.

    New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 40 Drawings By Jackson Pollock, 1934-1956, no. 34, 4-30 November 1957.
    East Hampton, New York, Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, By Hand: The Paper of Douglass Morse Howell, 1 May-27 July 1998.
    Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Convergence: The Hamptons Since Pollock, 2 April-29 May 2000 (illustrated in color, p. 2).
    Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Long Island Collects, 18 January-15 March 2009 (illustrated in color, p. 16).

    F. V. O'Connor and E. V. Thaw, Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, Vol. 3, New Haven, 1978, no. 858 (illustrated, p. 326).

    Splashed across a sheet of soak-stained Howell paper, Jackson Pollock's Untitled (Drawing), circa 1952-56 is an exemplary work that captures the artist's enthusiastic fervor and concentrated efforts in defining Abstract Expressionism within its blooming puddles of ink and water. Lines of ink snake along various areas of the sheet, navigating shallow streams in a calculated effect that echoes the artist's demonstrative movement. Wider swathes quickly seep into the sheet, designating darkened borders along the man-made pools. Repeatedly, Pollock recognized that both his paintings and works on paper deserved the same attention and critical concern, as both mediums were essential and evocative of his artistic ideology. This rang true early on in his career, where even during his first solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery, Art of the Century, he contended that his paintings should be shown alongside his works on paper, as both were platforms for refining his technique and investigating the makeup of his materials. When interviewed by William Wright in 1950, Pollock reveals his internal categorical leanings and psychological footing:

    WW: I believe it was Freud who said there's no such thing as an accident. Is that what you mean?
    JP: I suppose that's generally what I mean.
    WW: Then, you don't actually have a preconceived image of a canvas in your mind?
    JP: Well, not exactly – no – because it hasn't been created, you see. Something new – it's quite different from working, say, from a still life where you set up objects and work directly from them. I do have a general notion of what I'm about and what the results will be.
    WW: That does away, entirely, with all preliminary sketches?
    JP: Yes, I approach painting in the same sense as one approaches drawing; that is, it's direct. I don't work from drawings, I don't make sketches and drawings and color sketches into a final painting. Painting, I think today – the more immediate, the more direct – the greater the possibilities of making a direct – of making a statement. 1

    Throughout his career, Pollock concentrated heavily on the quality of materials in which he used. Eugene Victor Thaw notes, "From 1951 on, Pollock used for his drawings a variety of papers which were, it would seem, carefully chosen for their properties of absorbency. This seemed especially important to him so that the drawing inks and washed would blot and stain with effects parallel to those he was obtaining with paint on raw unsized canvas."2Analogous to his masterful drip paintings from the same period, Untitled (Drawing), circa 1952-56 is a composition that reveals Pollock's innate calligraphic control and poignant timing, utilizing the fluid nature of his medium, allowing it and himself unhindered expression.

    Inspired by the works of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, Pollock's works from this time are mysterious and somewhat cosmic, and, as Thaw states, "both completely abstract and semifigurative, which summarize much of Pollock's past work as a draftsman and point the direction of an unrealized future."3A true pupil of the canon, Pollock's technique and even his dedication to his work and practice were inspired by those who challenged the formal confines of art before him. The great art historian William C. Seitz elaborates on the artist's influences, noting, "Much as Malevich and Mondrian pursued conclusions drawn from the Cubist movement to the categorical extreme, so Pollock's identification of passion of passion with nonobjective brush tracks gradually disintegrated into his planar structure, pushing values inherent in van Gogh and Soutine to an ultimate conclusion which was Abstract Expressionism in the most specific sense."4

    He was also greatly influenced by the Surrealists, who throughout their practice traversed the various psychological and theoretical boundaries within the modern artistic tradition. One such area of exploration was the idea of automatism within art – where one's subconscious articulates itself without direction. In doing so, it was believed that true essence of the artist and experience would be produced, as Seitz states, "The perceptual reality of the work of art, at once a quality of the object, the artist, and the spectator, mediates and binds together the material and the spiritual. With these qualifications, the characteristics of form and spirit can be listed."5

    Integral to rhythmic, overlapping imagery Pollock used at the beginning of the 1950s is the steady bleeding out of color within his palette. As renowned art historian Clement Greenberg stated, "Just as the cubists and their more important contemporaries renounced a good part of the spectrum in order to push further the radical renovation of painting that the Fauves had begun (and as Manet had similarly excluded the full color shade in the eighteen sixties, when he did his most revolutionary work), so de Kooning, along with Gorky, Gottlieb, Pollock, and several other contemporaries, has refined to black."6Greenberg continues, noting that this relinquishment of color related directly to the "profiled, circumscribed shape – as established by Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian, and Miró."7Eking out an almost atmospheric web across the sheet, Pollock's command and control of the black ink seemingly weaves a pattern, toying with one's eyes, reminiscent of zebra's stripes or of bands of pigment across a tiger's back. This morphological illusion's absence of color appears as if shadow and its inferring depth have crept into the work, digging valleys out of grey wash and carving hilltops out of negative space. These shapes, however, defy categorization. Like the black ink from which they are formed, Pollock's abstract gestures are ambiguous, endless and expansive - refined into a work which only Pollock could create, where, as Seitz notes, "Dissolution becomes a subject."8

    1. J. Pollock, interview with W. Wright, Sag Harbor, 1950, transcript published in F. V. O'Connor, Jackson Pollock, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1967, pp. 79-81, reproduced in C. Harrison and P. Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900-2000: An anthology of Changing Ideas, 2003, Malden, p. 585.
    2. F. V. O'Connor and E. V. Thaw, Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, Vol. 3, New Haven, 1978, p. 308.
    3. Ibid., p. 319.
    4. W. C. Seitz, Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983, p. 25.
    5. Ibid., p. 151.
    6. C. Greenberg, The Nation, 166, 24 April 1948, p. 448, reproduced in W. C. Seitz, Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983, p. 77.
    7. Ibid., p. 77.
    8. W. C. Seitz, p. 63.
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