Jackson Pollock

Number 23


Enamel on gesso on paper
Support: 575 x 784 mm
frame: 651 x 861 x 42 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased out of funds provided by Mr and Mrs H.J. Heinz II and H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd) 1960

Display caption

Pollock began to drip and pour paint in 1947. This work, in which streams of black and white enamels were poured onto the surface, shows the improvisatory possibilities of this method. The sweeping arc of Pollock's gesture can be seen in the liquid black, which has bled into the white painted background to become grey. This acts as a base over which the thicker white paint is deliberately woven. The effect is rhythmic but controlled, energetic but delicate. Although there was an element of chance, Pollock frequently emphasised the importance of decisions over the merely accidental.

Gallery label, July 2008

Catalogue entry

Jackson Pollock 1912-1956

T00384 Number 23 1948

Inscribed 'Jackson Pollock 48' b.r.
Enamel on gesso on paper, 22 5/8 x 30 7/8 (57.5 x 78.5)
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery (purchased out of funds provided by Mr and Mrs H.J. Heinz II and the H.J. Heinz Co., Ltd.) 1960
Prov: Mr and Mrs Daniel Longwell, New York and Neosho (purchased from the artist through Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, 1949); purchased from them through Betty Parsons Gallery by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1960
Exh: Jackson Pollock, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, January-February 1949 (no catalogue); What Businessmen collect, Guild Hall, East Hampton, July 1952 (no catalogue); Fine Arts Festival, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, March 1957 (listed in brochure as 'Number 22'); Kompas 3, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, November-December 1967 (45, repr.); Kompas New York, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, December 1967-February 1968 (43, repr.)
Lit: Francis Valentine O'Connor and Eugene Victor Thaw, Jackson Pollock: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Drawings and Other Works (New Haven-London 1978), No.199, Vol.2, p.20, repr. p.21
Repr: Studio, CLXII, 1961, p.45 Terry Measham, The Moderns 1945-1975 (Oxford 1976), pl.5

Executed in 1948, the second year of Pollock's drip paintings. It may be thought that the slight spread of the grey-black paint tracks was due to using a wet ground, but Lee Krasner (Mrs Pollock) says that her husband never worked like this, though he frequently applied paint with a basting syringe in order to obtain a long, continuous line. Fragments of a winged insect like a bee are embedded in the paint towards the upper right. Several other drip paintings also have objects embedded in them; for example 'Full Fathom Five' has paint-tube caps, and 'Blue Poles' has fragments of glass.

The 1948 works he exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery in January-February 1949 were numbered from 1 to 26, this one being No.23. It is one of about eleven paintings on paper done in this year, most of which were more or less this size.

Published in:
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, p.617, reproduced p.617

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