Jackson Pollock, ‘Untitled’, 1951, Childs Gallery

O'Connor Thaw 4:1096 (P32), after Pollock’s painting Number 27, 1951, enamel on canvas, 55 ¾ x 73 inches (O'Connor Thaw 2:328). Signed, dated, and dated lower right margin: “Jackson Pollock 51 6/30”.

Provenance: Private Collection, New York, NY.

Number 6 in a set of 6 screenprints. O'Connor Thaw 4:1091 (P27) – 4:1096 (P32); Williams (PQ) 27-32. Edition Number 6/30; Edition of 25 (see below regarding numbering discrepancy). Each print is signed, dated, and numbered in the lower right margin: “Jackson Pollock 51 6/30”. This extremely rare set of six lifetime screenprints was produced in 1951 after six of Pollock’s black enamel paintings from the same year - Numbers 7, 8, 9, 19, 22, and 27.

While Jackson Pollock is best known for his abstract drip paintings, the artist also periodically explored the art of printmaking throughout his career. First introduced to printmaking through the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in the 1930s, Pollock went on to experiment with several printing techniques including lithography, intaglio, and screenprinting. Pollock’s prints, making up just a fraction of the artist’s prolific oeuvre, constitute a rarely seen and often overlooked aspect of his practice.

Prints based on Pollock’s black enamel paintings were first suggested by Pollock’s friend, the architect and sculptor Tony Smith. In 1951, Pollock and his brother Sanford McCoy published the screenprints as a portfolio in an edition of twenty-five on the occasion of the paintings’ first exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery. A number of the portfolios were signed and numbered by Pollock and made available at the exhibition opening in November 1951, alongside the black enamel paintings themselves. A second, posthumous edition of fifty was completed in January 1964 by Bernard Steffen under the supervision of Mrs. Sanford McCoy and authorized by Lee Krasner Pollock. A number of trial proofs, the screens, and the original positives are preserved in the Pollock Archive.

While this set of prints is numbered 6/30, the actual edition size was only twenty-five. According to Dave and Reba Williams in their article “The Prints of Jackson Pollock” (Print Quarterly, Volume V, No.4, December 1988, p. 368), Pollock was careless in his numbering and record keeping. He did not sign all of the first edition prints, and sometimes incorrectly numbered the edition size as 30. While this set was numbered 6/30 by Pollock, it should have been numbered 6/25.

Although the prints replicate Pollock’s paintings from 1951, they are not exact copies. Comparison shows that Pollock worked on the stencils, changing some areas and erasing others. However, the greatest difference between the prints and the paintings does not derive from Pollock’s modest reworking of the screens, but rather from the difference in medium itself. According to Reba and Dave Williams, “the black paintings of 1951 and the prints after them are quite different in aesthetic effect: they differ in colour, size, and subtlety of image”. The tonal effects of Pollock’s black enamel paintings are converted into hard edges and solid blacks in the prints, creating a more graphic effect.

Other complete first edition sets are in the collections of The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis. A complete set is also currently on view at Tate Liverpool as part of the exhibition Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots. This exhibition will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art where it will be on display from November 15, 2015 to March 20, 2016.

About Jackson Pollock

Major Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, dubbed "Jack the Dripper" by Time magazine in 1956, is best known for his large "action" or drip paintings of 1947–52, formed by pouring and manipulating liquid paint atop canvases set on the floor. A wholly original, rule-shattering figure in American art, Pollock inspired Frank Stella, Richard Serra, and the Color Field painters. Pollock's early Surrealist works of personal symbols and abstract figures show the influence of José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Joan Miró, and Max Ernst, as well as his experiences with Jungian psychotherapy.

American, 1912-1956, Cody, Wyoming, based in East Hampton, New York