Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950
Jackson Pollock

One: Number 31, 1950

1950
On view
Medium
Oil and enamel paint on canvas
Dimensions
8' 10" x 17' 5 5/8" (269.5 x 530.8 cm)
Credit
Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange)
Object number
7.1968
Copyright
© 2015 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Department
Painting and Sculpture

One: Number 31, 1950 is a masterpiece of the “drip” technique and among the largest of Pollock’s paintings. Begun approximately three years after his first painting in this style, the work is evidence of the artist’s skill and technical prowess. Calligraphic, looping cords of color animate and energize every inch of the composition, which seems to expand visually, despite its already enormous size. As he did for all his drip paintings, Pollock painted One: Number 31, 1950 with the canvas lying on the floor. “On the floor I am more at ease,” he said. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

Additional text

This is one of three wall-size paintings that Pollock realized in swift succession in the summer and autumn of 1950. In 1947, Pollock began laying canvas on the floor and pouring, dribbling, and flicking enamel paint onto the surface, sometimes straight from the can, or with sticks and stiffened brushes. The density of interlacing liquid threads of paint is balanced and offset by puddles of muted colors and by allover spattering. The pictorial result of this tension is a landmark in the history of Abstract Expressionism.

Gallery label from 2006

As he did for all his “drip” paintings, Pollock painted this work from above, with the canvas lying flat on the floor. “On the floor I am more at ease,” he said. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” Begun approximately three years after his first work in this style, One: Number 31, 1950 is evidence of the artist’s technical prowess. Calligraphic, looping cords of color animate and energize every inch of the composition, which seems to expand visually despite its enormous size.

Gallery label from 2011

One is a masterpiece of the "drip," or pouring, technique, the radical method that Pollock contributed to Abstract Expressionism. Moving around an expanse of canvas laid on the floor, Pollock would fling and pour ropes of paint across the surface. One is among the largest of his works that bear evidence of these dynamic gestures. The canvas pulses with energy: strings and skeins of enamel, some matte, some glossy, weave and run, an intricate web of tans, blues, and grays lashed through with black and white. The way the paint lies on the canvas can suggest speed and force, and the image as a whole is dense and lush—yet its details have a lacelike filigree, a delicacy, a lyricism.

The Surrealists' embrace of accident as a way to bypass the conscious mind sparked Pollock's experiments with the chance effects of gravity and momentum on falling paint. Yet although works like One have neither a single point of focus nor any obvious repetition or pattern, they sustain a sense of underlying order. This and the physicality of Pollock's method have led to comparisons of his process with choreography, as if the works were the traces of a dance. Some see in paintings like One the nervous intensity of the modern city, others the primal rhythms of nature.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 194

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Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource