Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. He grew up in Arizona and California and in 1928 began to study painting at the Manual Arts High School, Los Angeles. In the fall of 1930 Pollock moved to New York and studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League. Benton encouraged him throughout the succeeding decade. By the early 1930s Pollock knew and admired the murals of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Although he traveled widely throughout the United States during the 1930s, much of Pollock’s time was spent in New York, where he settled permanently in 1934 and worked on the WPA Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1942. In 1936 he worked in David Alfaro Siqueiros’s experimental workshop in New York.
Pollock’s first solo show was held at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, New York, in 1943. Guggenheim gave him a contract that lasted through 1947, permitting him to devote all his time to painting. Prior to 1947 Pollock’s work reflected the influence of Pablo Picasso and Surrealism. During the early 1940s he contributed paintings to several exhibitions of Surrealist and abstract art, including Natural, Insane, Surrealist Art at Art of This Century in 1943, and Abstract and Surrealist Art in America, organized by Sidney Janis at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery, New York, in 1944.
From the fall of 1945, when artist Lee Krasner and Pollock were married, they lived in the Springs, East Hampton, New York. In 1952 Pollock’s first solo show in Paris opened at the Studio Paul Facchetti and his first retrospective was organized by Clement Greenberg at Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. He was included in many group exhibitions, including the Annuals at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, from 1946 and the Venice Biennale in 1950. Although his work was widely known and exhibited internationally, the artist never traveled outside the United States. He was killed in an automobile accident on August 11, 1956, in the Springs.