Eager from the very beginning to try his hand at different techniques that might offer new expressive possibilities, Pollock made twelve lithographs, including Landscape with Steer, between about 1934 and 1937. The subject, a Western scene, speaks to his upbringing in the American West. Pollock's loose gestures and evocative washes and scratches hint at the increasingly experimental direction in which his art was headed. Pollock added color to the second impression using an airbrush, a technique that he may have learned from David Alfaro Siquieros, the Mexican painter and muralist whose New York workshop he frequented at the time.
Gallery label from Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934-1954, November 22, 2015–May 1, 2016.
Like many of his fellow New York School painters, Pollock played down his influences, stoking the mythos of the individuality of the artist-genius working in isolation in his studio. In reality, he drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, many of which are reflected in this early lithograph airbrushed with synthetic paints. When he made this edition, Pollock was studying with Mexican painter and muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros at his Experimental Workshop in New York. There Pollock was exposed to a variety of radical approaches to painting—including spraying and dripping commercial enamel paints—that were designed to break with European traditions. This Western scene of a steer nestled into a forcefully executed landscape reflects his romanticizing of his upbringing in the American West (he actually grew up in suburban Los Angeles) and the rugged rebel image that he cultivated. It also reveals his roots in figurative painting and the influence of his early mentor, American Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. The expressive, gestural treatment of the landscape foreshadows Pollock’s increasing experimentation with abstraction.
Additional text from In The Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting online course, Coursera, 2017