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100 years of Jackson Pollock

Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

A Tehran Art University student looks at a painting by 20th century U.S. artist Jackson Pollock at Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art on June 19, 2010. Artists like Monet, Picasso and Warhol were considered revolutionary in their day, but their works were not much appreciated by the leaders of Iran's Islamic revolution and many were kept out of view for decades. Now, one of the greatest collections of contemporary Western art -- put together under a Western-leaning monarchy in pre-revolutionary Iran -- is open to the public, with some works on display for the first time in more than 30 years.

Martha Holmes / Time Life Pictures via Getty Images

Jackson Pollock drops paint onto canvas.

Jackson Pollock is considered a revolutionary painter who helped bring recognition to the American art world through Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s. On January 28, Pollock would have turned 100 years old. He is most well known for his 'drip' paintings, that involved pouring paint onto large raw canvases on the floor. Pollock currently holds the title for the world's most expensive painting ever sold, when David Geffen sold his "No.5, 1948" for $140 million through Sotheby's in 2006.

His battle with alcoholism lead him to undergo psychiatric treatment and in 1938 he spent four months in a hospital, according to a MOMA biography:

As a result he worked with two Jungian analysts, who used his drawings in the therapeutic process until 1941. This resulted in an obsessive exploration of his unconscious symbolism, mediated through the stylistic influence of Picasso, Orozco, Joan Miró and the theories of John Graham. The works he created parallel to his psychotherapy contain the elements of what became a personal iconography.

Martha Holmes / Time Life Pictures via Getty Images

Husband & wife artists Jason Pollock and Lee Krasner walking outside on Long Island with their dog in 1949.

Nature was a huge influence in his work. When he married artist Lee Krasner in 1945 and moved to a farmhouse in East Hampton, the surrounding nature provided constant inspiration. According to the National Gallery of Art:

Walking the meadows and woods near Accabonac Creek, which stood at the back of their property, Pollock found a kinship with nature that defines his great, classic work.

Today, one has only to step into the meadow behind Pollock's house to understand the overwhelming presence of nature in the dense, interwoven surfaces of his work. Pollock once defended the source of his imagery saying, "I am nature."


National Gallery of Australia via Reuters

An undated handout photograph shows Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles, Number 11, 1952" in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra which was purchased a quarter of century ago for A$1.3 million ($975,000) and is now estimated to be worth A$115 million ($86.25 million).

Tony Vaccaro / Getty Images, file

Lee Krasner and her husband Jackson Pollock and a couple stand around a dog and smoke in Pollock's studio at 'The Springs,' in East Hampton, New York, on August 23, 1953.

Though Pollock died tragically in a car crash in 1956 and has been gone for over 50 years, his paintings continue to spread his legacy. London's The Telegraph writes about his influence:

Before Pollock, paintings were created on easels, conceived, executed and seen from one direction only, as they had been for centuries. Not even Picasso changed that. But Pollock, wrestling with the problems of Surrealism, of how to get deeper into the internal subject of the work, began to work on the floor on unstretched canvas with very liquid paint, leaving the idea of a pre-meditated subject far behind.

Alfred Eisenstaedt / Time Life Pictures via Getty Images

Painter Jackson Pollock (seated R) sitting on the steps of painter Thomas Hart Benton's summer home with Rita Benton (sitting, in white hat) and author Coburn Gilman (standing) in 1937.