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Jackson Pollock: Portrait and a dream Research Paper


Description of the artwork

Portrait and a dream” is an artwork created by Jackson Pollock in 1953. It is categorized under the works by modern abstract expressionists. The medium the artist used to do the painting is canvas, while the material used is oil. Its size and dimensions are 148.59 x 342.26 cm. The subject of the painting falls under dreams, illusions, and the abstract perception of the world. The painting is a direct expression of Pollock’s dreams and illusions. He used the painting to express and reveal his deep unconscious feelings and emotions.

The painting is 2D with a perspective that is less modern. The entire painting is done in two-dimension, and due to the many perspectives in which it is drawn, there is a sense of abandonment evident in this masterpiece.

The painting is created using multiple artistic styles that allow one to develop or speculate on the true interpretation of its meaning. There is a general appeal in the painting that draws a viewer to it. The energy that was put in the painting during the process of its creation can be felt from just a mere glance at it. The use of line is the most relevant design element in this piece of art.

Analysis of the artwork

The artwork by Pollock is a diptych whereby two flat paintings are attached together on a white ground to form one piece of art. The painting is done in black and white on the left side, while on the right side, red and orange colors are used as well (Fichner-Rathus). One of the two paintings appears more abstract in nature than the other one.

The painting on the right hand side is figurative, while that on the left hand side appears to be abstract. At the same time, Pollock seems to have spent more time to carefully draw and paint the figure on the right hand side as compared to the time spent on the left-hand side figure.

The underlying concept of the painting appears to have been borrowed from the literal depiction of “self-portrait” and “the dream” where the “self-portrait” is assigned to the right hand side while “the dream” appears to be reflected in the figure on the left hand side (Arnold and Iverson).

Analysts have argued that painting might be an expression of the Pollock’s desperate life that emerged as a result of some of the choices he had made. His later works during the 50s were mainly focused on self-destruction as well as self-pity. It is not surprising, taking into account the manner in which he died, as even this particular painting turns out to be an illustration of a cry for help.

According to Pollock, he created the painting to be a reflection of himself when drunk. The image on the right is his portrait when high on alcohol and other drugs (Tuchman).

Methods and media for the artwork

Canvas is a common media used for 2 dimensional painting by artists during that period as well as at present days. However, this medium is specifically used for oil painting since it better supports the paint as compared to other forms of media. Pollock used canvas to paint his work, the choice of which greatly relied on oil paints. The canvas in the painting was stretched across a frame made of wood to support the material during painting and also to represent the artwork for the final presentation.

There are also various methods of painting with oil. The method used by Pollock was drip painting where the artist drips oil paint on a canvas to create a piece of art. The dripping was mostly done using paint brush to create the various forms of lines which are evident in the painting.

The effort made by Jackson Pollock while creating this painting was to reflect the way in which the natural world phenomena interact with self-expression (Tuchman). The painter only drips oil paint on a canvas medium and allows the paint to interact with nature. This simply implies the painter to movie the canvas to allow the paint spreading across while it is dripping.

Pollock perfected the skill of throwing and dripping oil paint on media, especially on canvas. He created webs, arabesques, and vortices of color using the painting technique. Having a closer look at the painting “Portrait and a Dream”, one can easily establish that the image on the right hand side was more carefully drawn or painted than that on the left hand side. It may be slightly difficult to imagine that the image was painted using drip method.

Form and context of the artwork

The media used in art always has a direct influence on the form. A form is used to refer to qualities, such as shape assumed by an artistic expression. In reference to the panting by Jackson Pollock, some of the formal qualities that exist in the painting include the brush and the canvas textures, and the color used (Robertson and McDaniel).

The painting was done on canvas through dripping of oil paint. The lines appearing in the painting are heavy and bold, which is typical of oil paints. As the oil dries, it leaves bold and heavy lines on the canvas. The lines can also be said to have some sense of slight action. They appear dynamic, with some sort of abstract movement. The random curved shapes of the lines further express the abstract nature of the lines.

With regard to the shape, the painting is done on a 2 dimension surface. The two figures constructed in the process of developing the painting have a round shape which is brought about by the curved nature of the lines. The context of an art basically refers to the environment that surrounds the artiste at the time when he or she is producing the art.

Jackson Pollock was in his early 40s when he came up with the piece “Portrait and a Dream”. Pollock, explaining why he painted the piece in such a manner, said that it was an expression of what was going on in his mind, when not sober. This was basically the inspiration to do this artwork.

It is a representation of gothic darkness after the Pollock entered into gothic activities and alcohol and drug abuse. The painting has been described by many art analysts to have a strong connection to Pollock’s life. Such a strong connection between the painting and Pollock’s life generates the context in which the painting was done. The portrait which the artist claimed to represent him, when not sober, appears to be a typical illustration of his entire life and life style. One can argue that the portrait is clumsy and violent.

Visual elements

Visual elements in art include such attributes as size, texture, line, and color. The purpose of analyzing visual elements is to try and understand why the artist made the choice to use those particular elements.

First, a piece of art is separated into two visual elements and analyzed based on those separate parts. In order to understand the art as a whole, it is better to analyze each figure separately. Jackson Pollock used various visual elements to express the violent, careless and clumsy activities that were going on in his life at the time of creating the painting.

Texture as a form of visual element helps bring out various details of the painting. The texture of Pollock’s painting is rough. This brings out further details of the abstract nature of the painting. There is little indication of smooth texture in the painting except only for the spaces and the areas that are shaded. The rough texture may also have been created by the painter to express what was going on in his mind at that time.

Pollock used mostly black and white color in both paintings. However, the one on the right hand side also has additional red and orange colors. Based on the context of the painting, the red color may refer to the dangerous things that happen in the mind and life of the artist, especially when he is not sober.

The manner in which the coloring is done clearly portrays a lack of unity in the painting. It is difficult to connect the two objects or even develop a realistic understanding of any of the two figures. Therefore, color was also used to illustrate the abstract nature of the paintings.

Works Cited

Arnold, Dana and Margaret Iverson. Art and Thought. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 2003. Print.

Fichner-Rathus, Lois. Understanding Art. New York: Paperback, 2009. Print.

Robertson, Jean and Craig McDaniel. Themes of Contemporary Art, Visual Art after 1980. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Tuchman, Phyllis. “Jackson Pollock: modernism shooting star.” Smithsonia (1998): 12-14. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Jackson Pollock: Portrait and a dream'. 10 December.

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