Dispelling this myth has not diminished the painting’s art-historical significance, either. “Mural certainly is considered to be a pivot because it’s his first large painting,” Landau notes. “Although it still includes a lot of the kind of mythic imagery that Pollock was painting in the early 1940s, the areas of loose paintwork give you glimpses of what the future’s going to be.” It was the first time that the artist experimented with commercial paints, for instance. Among the high-end artists’ oils used in Mural (most likely supplied by Guggenheim), Getty researchers discovered swatches of white house paint. And while Pollock used a brush for most of the composition, he heralded his later drip techniques by flicking pink paint onto portions of the canvas. He would eventually lay his works flat on the floor and stand over them, but in this case he probably flung the paint at an upright canvas.
Mural would not only be Pollock’s first large painting—it would be his largest. So large, in fact, that he and Krasner were forced to dismantle one of their apartment walls to fit the canvas inside, secretly carrying chunks of plaster to the garbage cans at night so as not to alert their neighbors. Greenberg, who would become one of Pollock’s prominent supporters, loved it. “I took one look at it,” Greenberg said later of Mural, “and I knew Jackson was the greatest painter this country had produced.”
Although it hung for several years in Guggenheim’s apartment, when she moved back to Europe following the end of World War II, the massive painting needed a new home. Guggenheim eventually gifted Mural to the University of Iowa, where the correspondence concerning the cost of its delivery is amusingly cavelier—particularly considering the work’s current estimated worth of around $140 million.
“The price of $40 to pack it seems rather exorbitant,” the head of the university’s art department wrote in December of 1948. “I wonder if you could see if it could be taken care of for less.” Following this letter, he seemed to promptly forget about the work; letters resume more than two years later, when he finally agreed to the shipping fee.