American painter, the chief pioneer of Abstract Expressionism. Born in Cody, Wyoming, and grew up in Arizona and California. Moved to New York and studied 1929-31 with Thomas Benton at the Art Students League. Influenced by Benton's regionalist style and by Ryder, and later by the Mexican mural painters and Picasso. Worked as an easel painter on the WPA Federal Art Project 1938-42. Paintings of ritual violence or sexuality, with turbulent clashes of movement and fragmentary archetypal imagery, which led gradually in the early 1940s to a completely abstract 'all-over' style to which was given the name Abstract Expressionism. First one-man exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's gallery Art of This Century, New York, 1943. His involvement with gestural painting, inspired partly by the sand painting of the American Indians and partly by Surrealism, culminated in his use from 1947 of a technique of dripping trails of paint onto a canvas laid flat on the floor. Married the painter Lee Krasner in 1944 and settled with her at Springs, Long Island, 1946. Painted a number of works in black and white in 1951-2, many with re-emerging imagery of anatomical motifs, etc. Died in a car crash at East Hampton.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.616-17