Answers to a Questionnaire – Jackson Pollock

The questions were written by Pollock himself with assistance from a representative of the gallery. Originally printed in Arts and Architecture


Where were you born?

JP: Cody, Wyoming, in January, 1912. My ancestors were Scotch and Irish.

Have you traveled any?

JP: I’ve knocked around some in California, some in Arizona. Never been to Europe.

Would you like to go abroad?

JP: No. I don’t see why the problems of modern painting can’t be solved as well here as elsewhere. Where did you study? JP: At the Art Students’ League, here in New York. I began when I was seventeen. Studied with Benton, at the League, for two years.

How did your study with Thomas Benton affect your work, which differs so radically from his? JP: My work with Benton was important as something against which to react very strongly, later on; in this, it was better to have worked with him than with a less resistant personality who would have provided a much less strong opposition. At the same time, Benton introduced me to Renaissance art.

Why do you prefer living here in New York to your native West?

jP: Living is keener, more demanding, more intense and expansive in New York than in the West; the stimulating influences are more numerous and rewarding. At the same time, I have a definite feeling for the West: the vast horizontally of the land, for instance; here only the Atlantic Ocean gives you that.

Has being a Westerner affected your work?

JP: I have always been very impressed with the plastic qualities of American Indian art. The Indians have the true painter’s approach in their capacity to get hold of appropriate images, and in their understanding of what constitutes painterly subject matter. Their color is essentially Western, their vision has the basic universality of all real art. Some people find references to American Indian art and calligraphy in parts of my pictures. That wasn’t intentional; probably was the result of early memories and enthusiasms.

Do you consider technique to be important in art?

JP: Yes and no. Craftsmanship is essential to the artist. He needs it just as he needs brushes, pigments, and a surface to paint on.

Do you find it important that many famous modern European artists are living in this country?

JP: Yes. I accept the fact that the important painting of the last hundred years was done in France. American painters have generally missed the point of modern painting from beginning to end. (The only American master who interests me is Ryder.) Thus the fact that good European moderns are nowhere is very important, for they bring with them an understanding of the problems of modern painting. I am particularly impressed with their concept of the source of art being the unconscious. This idea interests me more than these specific painters do, for the two artists I admire most, Picasso and Miro, are still abroad.

Do you think there can be a purely American art?

JP: The idea of an isolated American painting, so popular in this country during the thirties, seems absurd to me, just as the idea of creating a purely American mathematics or physics would seem absurd. . . . And in another sense, the problem doesn’t exist at all; or, if it did, would solve itself: An American is an American and his painting would naturally be qualified by that fact, whether he wills it or not. But the basic problems of contemporary painting are independent of any one country.

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