Collection 1880s–1940s

Jackson Pollock. The She-Wolf. 1943 416

Oil, gouache, and plaster on canvas, 41 7/8 x 67" (106.4 x 170.2 cm). Purchase. © 2023 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Ann Temkin: The most amazing thing about Pollock I think to many people today still is what appears to be the absolute freedom that he brought to what he did.

Painting, Pollock felt, had to get away from the very disciplined idea of an easel and a paint brush. He abandoned both, essentially. And worked even before he developed his famous drip technique of pouring paint onto a canvas, not with paint brushes as much as trowels, and fingers, and cans of paint, and palette knives, and sticks, and whatever was around that he could apply paint with. Similarly he worked with the canvas tacked directly to the wall, or on the floor.

The she–wolf has a long history in all sorts of cultures, myths and legends. Perhaps the most famous is the story of Romulus and Remus, the twins who are credited with the founding of the city of Rome. And they, as orphans, were suckled by a she-wolf in the wilderness.

The she-wolf in this painting has her head pointing at our left. You can see her nose just a couple of inches from the border of the picture. And then you see a black outline that provides the contour of her back. All of this is overlaid by a whole lot of chaotic color, chaotic strokes and masses and drips of paint in all kinds of directions. And for the people who were seeing this picture when it was first shown in 1943, you can imagine the head scratching they must have done.