chapter  12
14 Pages

Jackson Pollock: An American's triumph and the death of modernism

In the decade after the end of the Second World War, the center of the western art world shifted from Paris to New York City. Many of the artists who ¯ed to the United States brought along with them the innovations and controversies over which they had argued and competed in the prior decades. Of course, the most important issue was the nature of modern art and the role of the artist in the modern world. This was particularly important given the catastrophe which had befallen art under the Nazis, but there was also the impact of an emerging global economy, the cultural ambitions of New York and Americans in general, and the need for the displaced artists to make a place for themselves (as well as a living). American artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko among many others had been struggling for years to ®nd their vision, style and place in the avant-garde. In the midst of the Great Depression, with little work and virtually no viable art market, American artists had been gathering for years to discuss and argue about what they understood of the European modern artists and as a group their ambitions were at a fever pitch when many of their heroes began to ¯ee the war, settling in a metropolitan area where culture and art were not as foreign as in the rest of the New World. One of these artists, Jackson Pollock, after many years of poverty, alcoholism, frustration and failure, was ready to make a surprising and fantastically in¯uential next step in modern painting.