Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Morton and Barbara Mandel, sold to benefit the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)


Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
signed and dated 'Jackson Pollock 53' (lower left)
ink on Howell paper
17 5/8 x 21 ½ in. (44.8 x 54.6 cm.)
Executed in 1953.
Private collection, Binghamton, New York
Sarita Southgate, Scottsdale
PaceWildenstein, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 1997
F. V. O'Connor and E. V. Thaw, eds., Jackson Pollock, A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, vol. 3, New Haven and London, 1978, no. 856 (illustrated).
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle and New York, Museum of Modern Art, Jackson Pollock: Drawing into Painting, June 1979-March 1980, p. 90 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

An immaculate and rare example of Jackson Pollock’s late practice, Untitled is one of only five drawings done on Howell paper in the four years leading up to the artist’s death. This drawing was created following a crucial period of reflection and reconsideration by Pollock about his work. Marking a return to some of Pollock’s imagery and graphic style of the early 1940s, the present lot emphasizes the artist’s mastery over his practice. Balancing between chaos and control, the work “oscillates between abstraction and a renewed figuration; ink and paint; paper and unprimed canvas; a bridging language with the capacity to ‘disturb’ as much as soothe” (S. Straine, “Beyond Work: Pollock Drawing,” in G. Delahunty, ed., Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, exh. cat., Tate Liverpool and Dallas Museum of Art, 2015, p. 105).

Untitled incorporates an array of swirls, splatters and tiny intentional dots into the composition. Bold forms, such as the series of oval shaped blots on the top left corner, coexist alongside meandering organic lines in perfect harmony. Some forms remain self-contained within their respective areas of the composition while others venture out to explore the full dimensions of the drawing. These visual elements work in unison together encouraging the viewer’s eye to roam around the canvas while disallowing the viewer to fixate on one particular area. The formal aspects conjure up visual associations to images such as primitive cave paintings and the works of Joan Miro. These lyrical lines and enigmatic forms work in unison to give Untitled a powerful sense of dynamism and movement.

The present lot emphasizes Pollock’s mastery over his practice. It draws on previous themes from the artist’s oeuvre while also marking a shift in his artistic production. In a reference to the ‘drip’ paintings which made Pollock famous, the artist’s hand can be seen throughout the drawing. Untitled also makes reference to the amorphous forms prevalent in the artist’s early abstract works from the late 1930s and early 1940s. While many references to previous works can be attributed to the present lot, this drawing was created following a deep reconsideration by the artist about his practice. Diverging from his previous use of enamel paint on paper, in 1951, Pollock began to use more traditional materials of watercolor and ink to render his drawings. He also began using Howell paper; an unusual type of paper that was made exclusively for Pollock by the creator Douglass Morse Howell. That same year Pollock began a series of black enamel paintings that marked a dramatic shift away from his “drip” paintings and would come to greatly influence the present lot. This new series traded the abstract, colorful, and all-over compositions of the ‘drip’ paintings for a monochromatic color palette with hints of representational elements. In a personal letter to his mentor Alfonso Ossorio in January 1951, Pollock pronounced, “I’ve had a period of drawing on canvas in black- with some of my early images coming through- think the non-objectivists will find them disturbing- and the kids who think it’s simple to splash a Pollock out” (J. Pollock, quoted in K. Varnedoe with P. Karmel, Jackson Pollock, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, p. 326).

Some critics regarded the paintings of 1951 as a controversial retreat away from the artist’s abstract idiom and towards figuration. Others regard these paintings as the most psychologically charged works of Pollock’s career. Incorporating the power and visceral energy from his drip paintings, the black enamel works recall and give shape to the artist’s unconscious in a graphic and direct way. They also brought him back from an extended battle with alcoholism and the pressure of his newfound fame. The later years of his life, leading up to his untimely death by car crash in 1956, were filled with reinvention and discovery. Expanding upon the black enamel paintings, Untitled exemplifies this productive time period. The present lot highlights Pollock’s ability to harness the artistic power of his unconscious into the drawing. He claimed to always remain in control of his images, once stating “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through… there is pure harmony, easy give and take, and the painting comes out well” (J. Pollock, quoted by E. Frank, Jackson Pollock, New York, 1983, p. 68). Untitled is a rare late work from the artist’s oeuvre that highlights the harmonious elements Pollock emphasized in his works.

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