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upper right: [two hand prints of the artist]; lower left: Jackson Pollock '50

Provenance

Purchased 1951 from the artist through (Betty Parsons Gallery, New York) by Edward F. Dragon and Alfonso A. Ossorio [1916-1990], East Hampton, New York; purchased 1976 through (Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd., London) by NGA.

Exhibition History
1950
Jackson Pollock Exhibition, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, 1950.
1961
Jackson Pollock, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1961, no. 8, repro.
1967
Jackson Pollock, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1967, no. 45, repro.
1978
American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1978.
1982
Jackson Pollock, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1982, no. 264, repro.
1996
Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1996, fig. 106.
1998
Jackson Pollock, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Britain, London, 1998-1999, no. 174, repro.
2013
Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet, The Phillips Collection, Washington; Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, 2013, no. 4, repro. (shown only in Washington).
Bibliography
1959
O'Hara, Frank. Jackson Pollock. New York, 1959:26, repro. 53
1960
Robertson, Bryan. Jackson Pollock. New York, 1960: 20, repro.
1962
Ashton, Dore. The Unknown Shore: A View of Contemporary Art. Boston, 1962: repro. 125
1965
Sawyer, Kenneth B. "The Artist as Collector: Alfonso Ossorio." Studio International 196, no. 863 (March 1965):109
1971
Plessix, Francine du. "Opulence and Discrimination: Alfonso Ossorio." in Lipman, Jean, ed. The Collector in America. New York, 1971:202, repro.
1973
Johnson, Ellen. "Jackson Pollock and nature." Studio International 185, no. 956: 262, repro.
1974
Blake, Peter. "Ossorio." Architecture Plus. 2, no. 1 (January/February 1974):68, repro.
1977
Richard, Paul. "The Field Painting As a Metaphor For the Mind of Modern Man." The Washington Post. (May 29, 1977): E2, repro.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 116, pl. 75., as Lavender Mist.
1979
Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 134, pl. 120.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 210, repro.
1980
Rosenzweig, Phyllis. The Fifties: Aspects of Painting in New York. Washington, DC:13, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 18, 19, no. 63, color repro.
1981
Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 222, detail 232,
1982
Hughes, Robert. "An American Legend in Paris." Time (1 February 1982): 70-71, repro. [exhibition review]
1982
Wilson, Simon. "Jackson Pollock at the Beaubourg." The Burlington Magazine (May 1982): 316.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 614, no. 949, color repro.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 192, no. 73, color repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 263, color repro.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 263, repro.
1992
Fiero, Gloria K. The Global Village of the Twentieth Century The Humanistic Tradition 6. 1st ed. [7th ed. 2015] Dubuque, Iowa, 1992: 89, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 266, repro.
1997
Hughes, Robert. American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America. New York, 1997: 486-487, color fig. 287.
2000
Torres, Louis and Michelle Marder Kamhi. What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand. Peru, Illinois, 2000: 407, nt. 159.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 436-439, no. 360, color repros.
2009
Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 7.
2009
Gariff, David, Eric Denker, and Dennis P. Weller. The World's Most Influential Painters and the Artists They Inspired. Hauppauge, NY, 2009: 172-173, color repro.
2010
Monet y la abstracción. Exh. cat. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2010: 33, 34 fig. 16.
Explore This Work

On the canvas was not a picture, but an event.

Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Art News (December 1952) 

Jackson Pollock’s mural-size “drip” paintings met with mixed reactions when they debuted at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City in 1948. Sales were dismal, and critical reviews offered skepticism or mild appreciation. Yet only one year later, a Life magazine article featured Pollock, arms crossed and cigarette dangling from his lips, standing in front of one of his swirled, caffeinated images. The caption under the photograph asked, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?”

Pollock’s move from dark horse to darling of the art world came out of various concurrences: the powerful art critic Clement Greenberg’s insistence that Pollock’s work represented a new, authentic American art; a shift in the art world; and Pollock’s success, achieved over a period of years, at making gesture, line, texture, and composition the very subject of his canvases.

Number One, 1950 (Lavender Mist) embodies the artistic breakthrough Pollock reached between 1947 and 1950. It was painted in an old barn-turned-studio next to a small house on the East End of Long Island, where Pollock lived and worked from 1945 on. The property led directly to Accabonac Creek, where eelgrass marshes and gorgeous, watery light were a source of inspiration for him.

Pollock’s method was based on his earlier experiments with dripping and splattering paint on ceramic, glass, and canvas on an easel. Now, he laid a large canvas on the floor of his studio barn, nearly covering the space. Using house paint, he dripped, poured, and flung pigment from loaded brushes and sticks while walking around it. He said that this was his way of being “in” his work, acting as a medium in the creative process. For Pollock, who admired the sand painting of the American Indians, summoning webs of color to his canvases and making them balanced, complete, and lyrical, was almost an act of ritual. Like an ancient cave painter, he “signed” Lavender Mist in the upper left corner and at the top of the canvas with his handprints.

Though the work contains no lavender, the webs of black, white, russet, orange, silver, and stone blue industrial paints in Lavender Mist radiate a mauve glow that inspired Greenberg, Pollock’s stalwart champion, to suggest the descriptive title, which Pollock accepted. Pollock’s canvases from this decisive phase of his career are considered to have transformed the experience of looking “at” a work of art into one of being immersed, upright, in its fullness. His mastery of chance, intuition, and control brought abstract expressionism to a new level.

About the Artist

Jackson Pollock spent his formative years in Wyoming (he was born in Cody) and California. By the time he was 14 years old he had made an “art gallery” in a chicken coop on the family’s property. Eager to succeed in the art world, he moved to New York City when he was 18. There, he studied under the realist painter Thomas Hart Benton and visited museums—particularly the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. He worked in various directions, inspired by Pablo Picasso, the Mexican muralists, surrealists including Joan Miró, Native American pictographic art, and old masters Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, and El Greco—while he mastered the powers of line, marking, and abstracted form. Bouts of depression and drinking, however, made New York City a dangerous and tempting environment for him.

In 1945 Pollock and his wife, artist Lee Krasner, moved to East Hampton on the far end of Long Island, whose light, air, and exquisite coastal geography had drawn a number of artists. There, Pollock had his breakthrough with the all-over abstract canvases that electrified the art world. Many of these works twist and sing with the rhythms of the grasses and light on the far East End, freeing painting from its figurative tasks.            

Perennially short on money, Pollock had come to rely on bartering art for groceries at the nearby general store (still operating to this day). In August 1956, on one of his drives along the slim, winding roads that lace the East End, a drunken Pollock smashed into a tree, killing himself and a female passenger. By then he seemed to have lost the energy and focus he had brought to his signature works, but they left no question about his contribution to modernism by shifting artistic practice to focus on the relationships of painting to the body (the artist) and the world (the observer). 

Slideshow: More Works by Jackson Pollock