Jackson Pollock: Mural
It is unusual for an exhibition to feature a single work of art. An artwork that deserves this special status is Jackson Pollock’s famous large scale painting, Mural. The painting initially commissioned as a mural, thus the name, was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, and donated to the University of Iowa in the early 1950s.
Pollock’s iconic painting is considered to have opened the door to Abstract Expressionism, the first American art movement that garnered international attention, and can be said to have helped shift the attention of the art world from Europe to America.
In addition to the importance of the artwork, Pollock and Guggenheim were larger than life characters. Guggenheim’s father perished on the Titanic, leaving Peggy with a fortune. Fascinated with artists and art she set out to build a collection with advice along the way by some of the most storied figures in art history, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst and others. In addition to collecting, Peggy founded and operated two contemporary art galleries first in London and then in New York City.
Guggenheim signed Pollock, whom she was initially unsure of, to her New York City gallery, Art of This Century, and provided him with a monthly stipend against sales, even lending Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner, funds to purchase a modest house on Long Island with an adjacent barn in which he could work.
While Guggenheim championed many cutting edge artists of her time, Pollock is the most famous, crossing over from the art world into popular culture when he was featured in Life magazine in the 1949. While Pollock died in an automobile accident in 1956, his popular culture celebrity has continued, and added to with a recent mainstream movie on his life titled Pollock.
Pollock’s wife, the artist Lee Krasner who placed her own career on hold to promote Pollock and take care of him (he struggled with alcoholism), is now also recognized as an important artist. While both Jackson and Lee suffered financially during Jackson’s lifetime, after his death Lee managed the estate and created and left the Pollock/Krasner Foundation, with over $20,000,000 to help struggling and under-recognized artists.
The Jackson Pollock Mural is part of the University of Iowa Art Museum’s Legacies for Iowa Collections Sharing Project. As part of the Sharing Project the University does not charge a rental fee for the loan of Mural. But due to the extra costs required by increased security and insurance, as well as facility modifications, shipping and additional expertise, the Art Center Association of Sioux City had to raise $200,000 to make the project possible. The Association accomplished this goal through its Blockbuster Partners, a group of individuals, businesses and foundations whose mission is to underwrite and promote major exhibitions and acquisitions of art for the Art Center’s Permanent Collection.
Jackson Pollock’s Mural, considered to be the most important modern American artwork ever made.
Jackson Pollock (American, 1912 – 1956), Mural, 1943. Oil and casein on canvas, 95-5/8″ x 237-3/4″. Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1959.6, University of Iowa Museum of Art. Reproduced with the permission of The University of Iowa.