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Jackson Pollock: Number 1, 1949

Defining art of Pollock can be one of the most difficult yet enjoyable tasks that any person can ever undertake. There are so many factors to consider and so many different methods of artistic thoughts. Some say that art is an expression, but not everyone agrees that an expression is art. However, it all depends on the eyes of the beholder who is going to view the art form. Nobody can say which trend of art is more important than another. One person may think that a particular object or expression may be artistic but for another it might be of no value. Generally, the human race considers art as something that is pleasing to the eye or invokes certain emotions when viewed. In addition, what many artists consider art as something, which you can do, enjoy, and in the end, produce something, that gives a feeling of success? There are many different ways to express the concept called art. The most common style of art, which most people think while relating something to art, is painting. Painting is usually related to some form of paint media, whether oil or watercolor or whichever style it is, and the paint is then applied in some form on the canvas (Matthews 148).

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There are, however, literally hundreds of styles of art within the world. They range from the painting, which although never simple, is not necessarily the most complex way to express you. Art can even be considered in simple writing, usually in the form of poetry. The spoken word can have a more profound effect than physical art. A simple poem can invoke a range of emotions rather quickly. If a poem refers to someone who is close to the author, the author may feel overwhelmed when viewing his or her own artistic expression. However, a painting can just as easily invoke the same feelings as a written piece of art. In addition, a simple sketch has the chance of being just as profound. Paul Jackson Pollock was that person who had the genius of transforming unconventional day-to-day elements like aluminum, enamel, cigarette etc into work of art that corresponds to both intellect and heart at the same time. His work Number 1, 1949 is exactly such a work. However, it should be noted that the construction of his work is deeply rooted in the life, time and belief of the painter himself.

Paul Jackson Pollock can well be enumerated as a painter who during his time (1912-1956) highly influenced the course of American paintings and painters in the parameter of movements regarding abstract expressionist art forms. The artwork in concern for this paper is the painting Number 1, 1949 painted in 1949. The medium is fundamentally oil on canvas but it is also accompanied by the use of unconventional items like aluminum paints, enamels etc. The dimension of this painting is 160 cm by 259 cm (5”3’x8”6’) (Naifeh and Smith 87).

Pollock, born in 1912, led a stormy life with controversy and alcoholism along with family turmoil which occupied the major part of his latter life. Furthermore, his life was mainly juxtaposed between the two World Wars and the philosophical and social changes between these two massive Wars. He started his life under the influence of modernism and its values. Then in the course of time, Modernism has developed some kinds of defects such as the uneasiness in the use of the structures caused by the traditionalism that Modernism uses. But instead of regressing back to the classical styles which will result only to complication and awkwardness, the architects of that time thought of coming up with a style called – Post Modernism. Post Modernism then gives more importance to individuality, social, cultural, as well as environmental conditions; an idea that super cedes or overlaps the pillars of Modernism. Hence, the key to qualify a structure as a work of Post-Modernism is to sense its presence rather than to confine it within a specific range of definition. To feel the aura of playfulness that is not present in other styles (Naifeh and Smith 25).

Soon Pollock became interested in post-modernism art. Post Modernism or post-modernist art is not an easy task since it has acquired characteristics from a wide spectrum of periods, while integrating a variety of architectural values gathered by people of different places into a particular style, which was then popularized as Post-Modernism. It can be stated that the matter of post modernism is an amalgamation of different ideas and thought processes and together there was referred to as postmodernism. The context of post-modern aspects of art under the parameter of multicultural environment became very relevant for Pollock. It is denoted that under modernism the juxtaposition of cultural milieu was an initial set up but during the development of globalization and post-modern ethical principals it is a fundamental need to indulge into the multicultural dimensions. However, it is also to be mentioned that the multicultural environment is not easily championed and several ethical problems are related to it. From the parameters of art, it is suggested that one must involve deep into the cultural differences and understand the ethical and social differences while incorporating an architectural setting in a foreign cultural environment (Taylor 122-134).

This perception of this painting Number 1, 1949 appears to be formulated by a number of aspects of the modern era along with its complexities and the basic ideology was based on the progression of art where the basic issue was represented as life which reflects the inner self of the human mind. It could well be stated that the progression of colors in the painting that represents the darker aspects of the human mind. It can also be mentioned that this progression is not independent in any sense because art in the ultimate context has been following the traditional values of the society whether by following it or by contradicting it. Here we find the artist reflecting his idea of the urban self complexities (Matthews 134).

This is an extremely relevant point because the interesting proposition of this art is the man woman representation or manifestation, as it is a part of the urbane livelihood, and is no matter structural in nature as no relation of the modern times can be regarded as simple. This is because the basic philosophy intends to focus on the relationship rather than the outward expression. However, there are different approaches to this where one tries to incorporate every aspect in one gesture and Pollock makes his statement in his own mode (Mitra 432).

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The second most interesting aspect of this painting, the Number 1, 1949 could be expressed as a groundbreaking approach with the use of unconventional elements such as aluminum paints, enamels etc. These items are very relevant for the piece of art and present their own vibe that is so important for an artwork. This painting is chiefly pained on the basis of drip technique by Pollock. Here these elements are arranged in an aesthetic manner so that the urban vibe is well understood by the viewers. Furthermore it should also be stated that the arrangement of the entire canvas is well formulated on the longitudinal way for the tendency of stretched time and space in the social context of an urban environment. This is juxtaposed by the essential yet unconventional elements and thus the complete impact of the painting is well nourished and delivered to the viewers where the linear configurations would be manifested with these day to day objects.

Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1949 presents the energy of the universe through abstract line formulation that may be termed as galactic in nature. The basic form of this painting could be ascertained as abstract impressionism and there is no denial to this classification because this painting satisfies the sub altar manifestation of de centralized imaginative functions. Therefore, in accordance to the grammatical representation of art this painting by Jackson Pollock is certainly a work of art as opposed by many. It should be mentioned that Jackson Pollock’s Number 1, 1949, has often been dubbed as an arbitrary composition of paint. However it should be noted that the age of classical art forms are long discarded by artists from the days of impressionist art movements after the invention of photographic plates. Therefore, it is obvious that the six principles of classical art could not be the evaluating criteria for any modern art form. Nevertheless, it should be considered that at present we have moved a long way from realism through the realm of postmodern era and at this point of time such comments cannot be appended or appreciated as structuralism is no longer considered as inseparable aspect of an art form (Cockcroft 43–54).

Pollock’s art, particularly Number 1, 1949, is anything that anyone does which has a profound effect on somebody or something else. This art can be considered more complex, and some art can be considered simpler in contrast. However, the fact of the matter is, in the eye of the beholder, art could be anything. So is it possible for us to define what art is or can we really set any realistic guidelines as to what is art and what is not art? It is always possible to create guidelines, but it is often considered an art form in itself to break said guidelines. For instance, if you want to create a painting to give off an aesthetic feeling of hope, you probably would not use an over abundance of dark colors. Dark colors are often used to show calmness or even more commonly, something sad and depressing. But Pollock banished such ideas and created grammar of art on his own. In addition, when painting, if you use wider and more circular strokes with a lighter press on your brush, you will give off more depressing tones and colors. Therefore, it would be more advisable to use lighter colors and more agile handling of the brush. Lighter colors often give off a feeling of warmth and happiness, which is something that you would like to be doing if you would like to create something hopeful. But the genius of Pollock constructed new paths of feeling and understand that created his gem Number 1, 1949. This mode of construction is perfectly aligned with his life and belief and is completely reflected in this particular piece of art (Samuel 231).

This complexity was conceived by him during the latter years of the second War. In a way, Pollock’s character appears to be a manifestation of the era. The Second World War was in a period of history that was a time when the world was going through a difficult phase during the horrors of the war. It could be mentioned in the initial stages that it was degeneration time. Imperialism had taken its tolls on the world, which was grilling on the last fires of WWII. The losses were too heavy, and the shocks almost unbearable. People just lived through a test of the extent-organized cruelty and purposeful ruthlessness could reach. As far as the future was concerned, the initial tremors of what would lead to a massive cross across the globe were being felt. In this context, it would be relevant to mention that the generation was not finding their existence worthwhile or in other words, they wanted more out of their life for they hardly knew what to believe. They were not able to keep complete faith in religion and neither could they abandon it completely. Pollock appears to be the product of this social condition (Naifeh and Smith 77).

However, to truly create something that gives off a strong aesthetic presence, an artist must feel some sort of emotional attachment to whatever he is working on. Only then will the artist truly pour out everything from heart and mind. When the artist can accomplish this, he/she can create something with true aesthetic value. If Pollock can describe his emotions in his artwork, it becomes easier for others to understand what you were trying to do, and more often, give them a stronger emotional sense (Mitra 89). In a way, this creates a bond between the artist and the observer, allowing true aesthetic value to be created within a work of art. This is the point where Pollock comes out as a winner with his Number 1, 1949.

Works Cited

Cockcroft, Eva. Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War. Artforum 12.10, (1974): 43–54.

Matthews, Thomas. The western humanities. Mountain View. California: Mayfield Pub., 2001.

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Mitra, Ashoke. Art of the Western World: A Journey from Pre History to Post History. Auckland: Alliance Publishers, 1985.

Naifeh, Steven and Smith, Gregory White. Jackson Pollock:an American saga. NY: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.1989.

Samuel, Allen. The Appreciation of Art. Auckland NBT Publishers, 1999.

Taylor, Richard. Fractal Expressionism. London: Physics World, 1999.

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