Jackson Pollock 'Yellow Islands' 1952: Painting analysis

'Yellow Islands 1952' Photo taken at Tate Modern, March 2014
Jackson Pollock
Abstract Expressionist
  • Famous for his method of drip painting or action painting
  • Use of household paint, rather than artists paints
  • Hardened brushes, sticks, trowels, knives, even syringes as application means
  • Varied from pouring paint onto the canvas to heavy impasto with sand, broken glass, etc
  • Used the whole force of his body to paint
  • Wanted to physically be ‘in the painting’

Key formal elements to consider in this work:
  • Pattern - random, swirling, busy patterns; splattered, dripped marks
  • Colour - this one is fairly monochrome with only the barest touches of primary colour
  • Shape - unrecognisable, abstract shapes integrated within
  • Line - from straight drips to rounded lines and shapes
  • Negative space - subtle areas of bare canvas helping to make the painting whole, counteracting the crazy shapes and lines
  • Composition - no one element seems to stand out except to me there is the dark black dripping at the centre point 
  • Texture - layers of poured paint

Colour palette:

Here is a breakdown of the palette used in this painting, the colours at the top are the main colours, moving down the scale in use.

This is a new type of blog from me and I'll be looking at a different style of painter and attempt to break down one of their famous paintings. From Picasso, Miro, Dali, Kandinsky to Bacon, Freud and Pollock.

The formal elements are a great tool to analyse a painting and this blog will show how completely different the painting styles of artists can be. This is also one of the main reasons why I chose Jackson Pollock as my first blog as he was a complete original. In quick bullet points, I also look at the tools and techniques they use, their way of thinking and the colour palette they use. 

By breaking it down I hope to provide inspiration to move forward in out own work, however I don't mean to oversimplify a famous work of art but to provide input for those who want to learn more!


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