Jackson Pollock’s “Mural”

by on January 15th, 2015
Jackson Pollock’s “Mural” Cover Image

Mural, the 1943 painting by Jackson Pollock, has been much in the news over the last couple of years as it made its journey from the UI Museum of Art to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the remarkable conservation work done there, and then back to Iowa where currently it is exhibited at the Sioux City Art Museum.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural:  The Transitional Moment” by Yvonne Szafran and others is a fascinating look at the painting’s history and the conservation work that was completed in 2014.

The painting was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim and was first exhibited in her home.  She donated Mural to the University of Iowa in 1948, although it did not arrive in Iowa until 1951.  The painting is now acclaimed as a masterpiece of American mid-century modernism.

After a brief history of the painting and the artist, the book goes into detail about the conservation process.  The painting had dulled over the years, mostly due to a coating of varnish in the 1970s, the technique in use at the time to protect paintings.  The meticulous effort to remove the varnish is described in words and and photographs; artists who paint will get more out of the detail than I did, but I was happy to skim the technical bits and focus on the illustrations.  Cross sections of the paint on the canvas illuminate Pollock’s technique as well as show the varnish that is not original.

The painting is very large–roughly 8 feet by 20 feet–and the photographs of the conservation staff working on the painting give one a sense of the huge effort the project required. There are before-and-after fold-out pages showing the complete painting.

ICPL was fortunate to host author Yvonne Szafran, Senior Conservator of Paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum, on October 21, 2014 for a lecture on the painting and its conservation.  You can stream a recording of that talk from our website.

Mural will be at the Sioux City Art Center until April 1, 2015.  It then is destined for exhibitions in Europe, before it returns home to a new UI Museum of Art building.  “Jackson Pollock’s Mural” has made me much more appreciative of this locally owned treasure.  I can’t wait to see the real thing again.

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