The Guggenheim Museum has long been associated with the work of Jackson Pollock. In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim offered the relatively unknown artist his first solo exhibition at her influential museum/gallery Art of This Century. For the next five years Guggenheim subsidized Pollock with a monthly stipend, which in turn allowed her to amass significant holdings of the artist’s work. After Art of This Century closed in 1948, Guggenheim’s patronage continued. In 1950 she organized his first European solo show at Venice’s Museo Correr, and then began to disseminate his work through gifts to museums from Omaha, Nebraska, to Amsterdam. Her support throughout his brief yet brilliant career was unwavering, and she fondly called Pollock her greatest discovery.
Today, Pollock’s iconic, large-scale canvases are recognized by museumgoers the world over. Yet his smaller, intimately scaled works on paper often come as a revelation to even the most seasoned art audiences. No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock Paintings on Paper—the first retrospective devoted exclusively to Pollock’s works on paper in 25 years and organized on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death—specifically considers Pollock’s draftsmanship as an essential component in his transformation of the traditional figurative line into nonfigurative allover abstraction.
Pollock’s defining innovation has been characterized as the transition from “drawing into painting.” Though apt, this phrase implies that the mechanics of drawing occurred first and moved in a linear progression toward painting, when in fact in Pollock’s work distinctions between the two mediums are quite elusive. Throughout the approximately seven hundred works on paper that Pollock produced, line would remain the governing principle, regardless of whether he applied pencil or paint to paper.
ON SPLASH PAGE AND ABOVE: Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Green Silver)
, ca. 1949. Enamel and aluminum paint on paper mounted on canvas. 22 3/4 x 30 3/4 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Gift of Sylvia and Joseph Slifka. 2004.63. Photo: David Heald, ©2006 Pollock-Karsner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.