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How did Jackson Pollock become a cult figure for the Beat Generation? And what caused his reputation to continue to soar? This compelling and original Abrams classic locates the man and the artist in the continuum of his times, recreating the social and cultural milieu of New York in the 1940s and 1950s. Pollock's early years are chronicled, from his birth in the Wild West town of Cody, Wyoming in 1912 through his prophetically troubled school years marked by repeated expulsions, to his arrival in New York and period of rewarding study with Thomas Hart Benton, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Stanley William Hayter. Withdrawn, abrasive and often drunk, Pollock nevertheless attracted many other mentors; John Graham, the Russian-born artist whose theories were pivotal to the Abstract Expressionists; the French Surrealist emigres who arrived during World War II; two highly supportive Jungian analysts; and perhaps most important of all, Lee Krasner, a fellow artist (and later his wife), whose knowledge of art-world thinking and whose conviction of Pollock's genius were essential to his development.
With extensive knowledge of Pollock's habits (much of it gained through interviews), his reading, his conversation and the exhibitions he visited, the author retraces many of the far-flung sources of Pollock's work-African sculpture; North American totems; the Mexican gods of Siqueiros, Orozco and Tamayo; arcane texts favoured by the Surrealists; and Egyptian necrology. A wealth of comparative photographs that illustrates paintings by artists Pollock admired further explains the work of this complex, tragic, and immeasurably influential figure.
Ellen G. Landau is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, where she has taught since 1982. She is also the author of Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Reaisonne, Reading Abstract Expressionism, and Artists for Victory, as well as many articles on twentieth-century American art.