50 Things You Didn’t Know About Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock took an unconventional approach to painting unconventional pictures. He preferred laying his canvas on the floor instead of setting it on an easel, and rarely touched it with his brush — that is, whenever he happened to use a brush, which wasn’t often. Instead, Pollock would drip paint from knives or sticks or other such objects while he frantically moved around the canvas trying to create the right combination of color, pattern, and texture. With this defiant attitude, Pollock helped define the genre of Abstract Expressionism and make New York City the art capital of the world.

Plagued by alcoholism, Pollock’s life ended at the age of 44 when he crashed his car into a tree just one mile away from his home. He had been drinking that night, and it would prove to be his last. Today is Pollock’s birthday, so to celebrate a life lived instead of mourn a life cut short, we bring you 50 facts about the controversial man who didn’t want to do what all other painters had done before him.

1. When the German-born American painter Hans Hofmann invited Pollock to study with him and work more from nature, Pollock replied: “I am nature.”

2. For a time, Pollock sprayed paint onto the canvas through a syringe.

3. In the summer of 1938, Pollock had a nervous breakdown, which left him in a psychiatric care unit for a few months.

4. While living in Los Angeles, Pollock’s eldest brother, Charles, kept the rest of the family informed with what was happening in the art world by regularly sending home issues of The Dial and American Mercury.

5. Some people would buy Pollock drinks at the bar just to see what kind of bizarre antics he would get up to when drunk.

6. In January 1951, Art News published a list of the best exhibitions of 1950. The top three shows belonged to Pollock.

7. After Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, moved into their Long Island home, Pollock spent the entire winter fixing up the house without painting a single thing.

8. While still a young man, Pollock once traveled by freight train around Oklahoma and northern Texas, where he met vagrants, prostitutes, and did a few short stints in jail.

9. Pollock once had a job cleaning statues for the Emergency Relief Bureau. He also briefly worked as a janitor with his brother, Sanford, at a children’s school where their eldest brother, Charles, taught.

10. When a teenager, Pollock once wrote, “People have always frightened and bored me consequently I have been within my own shell.”