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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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Jackson Pollock, American, 1912-1956

Untitled (Number 37)
About 1939-40
Pen and brown and black ink, graphite, and orange colored pencil on smooth coated paper
Purchased through a gift from Olivia H. and John O. Parker, Class of 1958, the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund, and the Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions Fund; D.986.8

 

This work is one of a group of Jackson Pollock’s “psychoanalytic drawings,” so named because they were created over a period of eighteen months in 1939 and 1940 when Pollock underwent Jungian psychoanalysis in an attempt to deal with his alcoholism and crippling emotional instability. Pollock used drawing as an outlet during this period but also as a means for experimenting with representations of images that he saw in real life and in his imagination. Pollock created this work in several successive media, gradually resolving and sharpening the contours of his emergent forms and ideas in pen and ink from the looser orange pencil and graphite underdrawings. Some of the forms never cohere, but the central image resolves itself as a sort of man-beast composite that draws upon Pablo Picasso’s 1937 antiwar painting Guernica and the skeletal figure in the panel Gods of the Modern World from José Clemente Orozco’s 1932-34 mural The Epic of American Civilization at the Dartmouth College Library. As is even more evident in the Pollock oil study recently acquired by the museum (cat. 81), Pollock certainly knew Orozco’s mural and reportedly went so far as to drive from New York to Hanover to see it in person in 1936. The skeleton motif offers a modernist’s vision both of what Orozco called the “dead hand of the Academy” and of scholars’ indifference to contemporary social injustice. In this particular manifestation of Pollock’s early experiments, the intersection of Orozco’s message and Picasso’s forms portrays the young artist’s lingering debt to contemporary masters even as he began to look inward for the vitality and spontaneity that would become his trademarks.

Last Updated: 11/9/11