cover image Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock

Evelyn Toynton. Yale Univ., $26 (160pgs) ISBN 978-0-300-16325-4

Journalist and novelist Toynton (The Oriental Wife) lends her multifarious talent to the story of the turbulent life of iconic artist Jackson Pollock. A veritable authority on the lives of Pollock and Lee Krasner, few are better suited to pen such a quotable and inspired contemporary portrait, and Toynton's ability to combine sweeping references with didactic narrative separates this account from the stacks of literature on Pollock. Following a rough upbringing and early alcohol-fuelled exploits, Pollock relocated to New York, where his eminent "drip" took shape (though "he also splattered, splashed, and hurled"). The post-war avant-garde in America—patriotic but disenchanted—chose to express their "interior mental states" in a more abstract rather than "socially conscious" medium. With mixed results and divided critical opinion, the "dangerous and sexy" Pollock finally broke through at the 1943 "Art of This Century" show. His spontaneous production allowed Pollock to pave the way for contemporaries like de Kooning, Kline, and Rothko; though commercial success for Pollock was fleeting and fame did him no favors. Toynton psychologically analyzes Pollock's enigmatic persona—he was shy when sober, brash and egotistically articulate when drunk—and the nurturing role that Krasner came to fill in his life, even after he turned into the Greenwich Village idiot. Toynton touches on his demise, but justifiably applies greater focus to Pollock's "posthumous fame" brought about by Krasner's philanthropy and perspicacity and which has cemented his legacy. B&W photos. (Jan.)