Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
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Untitled (Landscape with Tree to Right)

Untitled (Landscape with Tree to Right)
signed and dated 'Jackson Pollock 36' (lower left)
oil on canvas
24 x 30 in. (60.9 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1936.
Mrs. Ludwig B. Prosnitz, New York.
Mrs. Elias Grossman, New York.
Private collection, acquired from the above.
Sotheby's, New York, 5 May 2013, lot 157, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
F.V. O'Connor, E.V. Thaw, Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works, New Haven, Connecticut and London, 1978, vol. I, p. 20, no. 22, illustrated.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Jackson Pollock, April 5-September 3, 1967, no. 5.
Venice, Italy, Museo Correr, L'America di Pollock: Jackson Pollock a Venezia: gli "irascibili" e la scuola di New York, March-June 2002, pp. 16, 231, no. 6, illustrated.

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Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

Before he catapulted to international stardom with his famous drip paintings, in 1930 Jackson Pollock of Cody, Wyoming arrived in New York City determined to make it as an artist. He enrolled in Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton’s class at the Art Students League, and the two soon formed a close student-teacher relationship. Erika Doss explains, “Pollock clearly idolized Benton and went out of his way to become like him, defending him and regionalist art when fellow students hurled accusations of fascism and provincialism.” (Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism, Chicago, Illinois, 1991, p. 323) Pollock modeled for Benton’s work, dined at his home, babysat his son and even joined his family on vacation. Naturally, Pollock also adopted his mentor’s Regionalist style of painting, creating fluctuating landscapes recalling America’s heartland. A dynamic example with undulating hills and sinuous trees, Untitled (Landscape with Tree to Right) shows Benton’s influence as a teacher, while also demonstrating Pollock’s persistent emphasis on gestural brushwork and rhythmic movement, even within his nascent representative paintings.

The present work likely depicts a farm near Milford, New Jersey. In the summer and fall of 1936, Pollock and two friends rented a farmhouse six miles away in the town of Erwinna in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Pollock would drive around the Delaware River Valley in his Model A Ford seeking subjects for his work. Spending his days painting on the front porch, Pollock “found consolation in the lolling green hills and off-road solitude of Bucks County…All around, stands of soybean, corn, and winter wheat rose and fell in shaggy disarray.” (S. Naifeh, G.W. Smith, Pollock: An American Saga, New York, 1989, p. 291)

While a clear reference to Benton’s style, Untitled (Landscape with Tree to Right) also exhibits a darker, moodier tone than the brighter-colored and idealistic images by Benton. Doss explains, “Perhaps Pollock’s upbringing amidst the actual circumstances of rural poverty, which Benton observed but never actually lived, influenced his darker outlook…Still, while the youthful Pollock may not have been entirely convinced of the regionalist strategy of picturing the American scene in an uplifting, optimistic manner, his output in the early thirties does indicate the degree to which he readily accepted Benton’s aesthetic principle: The art of social contract, or painting in a narrative mode for a public audience.” (Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism, p. 325)

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