Arts

Why Jackson Pollock gave up painting

With their sooty pools and block structures, the ‘black pour’ paintings of Pollock’s late period mark his rejection of sex and the erotic aspects of his drip techniques. A new exhibition shows how the artist formerly known as ‘Jack the Dripper’ reached the end of the line

After Late Matisse, Late Rembrandt and Late Turner comes Late Pollock, the most daring late show of all. Jackson Pollock (1912-56), the great leaky Prometheus of American art, is always assumed to have peaked around 1950, thereafter succumbing to the demons of drink, depression, adultery and cack-handed and colourless quasi-figuration, followed by (in 1953) painter’s block. Pollock’s descent into hell ended horrifyingly and murderously when, in an alcohol-fuelled rage, he drove his convertible Oldsmobile into a tree at 80mph, decapitating himself and killing a female passenger – and nearly killing his young mistress – in the process. No wonder Pollock has been the textbook example of Scott Fitzgerald’s line about there being no second acts in American lives.

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