Daily Picture Show

Unpublished Pollock Goes Public

In August of 1953, acclaimed photographer Tony Vaccaro paid a visit to Jackson Pollock. On assignment for Look magazine, Vaccaro was to document the pioneering artist who Life posited might be the "greatest living painter" in America.

  • Jackson Pollock, East Hampton, New York, August 1953
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    Jackson Pollock, East Hampton, New York, August 1953
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House
  • Pollock and Lee Krasner in their bedroom, looking at an untitled 1950 painting by Krasner, August 1953
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    Pollock and Lee Krasner in their bedroom, looking at an untitled 1950 painting by Krasner, August 1953
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House
  • Pollock and Krasner in their bedroom, August 1953
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    Pollock and Krasner in their bedroom, August 1953
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House
  • Krasner, Pollock and a neighbor, Sam Duboff, in Pollock's studio, August 1953
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    Krasner, Pollock and a neighbor, Sam Duboff, in Pollock's studio, August 1953
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House
  • Krasner and Pollock with Duboff, in Pollock's studio, August 1953. On the wall under the window is Pollock's "Portrait and a Dream," 1953. Behind Lee is "Ritual," 1953.
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    Krasner and Pollock with Duboff, in Pollock's studio, August 1953. On the wall under the window is Pollock's "Portrait and a Dream," 1953. Behind Lee is "Ritual," 1953.
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House
  • Pollock entering the barn studio
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    Pollock entering the barn studio
    Tony Vaccaro/Courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House

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By that year, Pollock's fame had peaked. Conversely, his alcoholism had famously worsened, as had his temperament and health. But on that day, Vaccaro's camera caught Pollack in a pleasant mood.

But the photos, for whatever reason, never ran in Look; the color rolls from that day have been lost, and the few remaining black and whites have remained largely unpublished. But upon discovering Vaccaro's little treasure, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center requested the contact sheets — and has put together an exhibition of the rare frames.

The images show Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner hanging out in their barn studio and house, now the campus of the Pollock-Krasner Study Center. In some frames with their pipe-smoking neighbor Sam Duboff makes an appearance.

In one photo, Krasner reaches out to Pollock in a perfectly quiet, ordinary movement. In the background of another photograph, though, looms Pollock's Picasso-esque "Portrait and a Dream." In hindsight, the face foreshadows Pollock's death in a drunk-driving accident; in his words, it was a portrait of himself "when I'm not sober."

The artist died just three years after Vaccaro's visit, at age 44. Vaccaro's found photos capture a quiet lull in Pollock's turbulent last years. The photos are on display through the end of October.

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