Visual Descriptions

Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31, 1950. 1950 65

Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8' 10" x 17' 5 5/8" (269.5 x 530.8 cm). Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange). © 2022 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Narrator 1: 6–5. One open parentheses Number 31 close parentheses. Painted in 1950 by American painter Jackson Pollock, 1912–1956. Oil and enamel on canvas, eight feet ten inches high by seventeen feet six inches wide. 270 x 531 cm.

Narrator 2: This picture hanging on this wall is painted on a very large, wide canvas. If you stand in the middle, it seems to expand indefinitely on either side of you. It’s an abstract work, without any hint of representation. Its colors are sombre: black, blue, grey, brown and white on an off–white background. It’s painted in Jackson Pollock’s famous ‘drip’ technique. And there’s no better way of describing the way it looks than to explain the way it was painted. Pollock laid the canvas flat on the floor. Then he walked around with a can of paint, using first one color and then another, pouring and dripping paint all over the canvas. He would not pour the paint directly from the can. Rather – he dripped it from brushes, or from sticks used for mixing house paint. As he walked, he would fling his arms in sweeping gestures, so the paint trails in long, blobby ropes across the canvas – some are straight, some curve and they vary in length. He was able to control where the paint would be thick and where it would form fine, thin lines. He carried on until he had covered the canvas with a deep, dense web of trailing ropes of paint. The bare, off–white surface of the canvas is visible in many places, particularly around the edges and corners of this unframed painting. One can imagine the experience of running one’s hands over its knobbly surface, and following the trails of paint with one’s fingertips.

To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 4–0–2.

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