Jackson Pollock Demonstrates Physics in his Strokes

Jackson Pollock, the man who brought American art to the forefront of the field and one of the father’s of the abstract expressionist movement, was not applying slap-dash, free-flung practices in his famous ‘splatter paintings.’

A group of physicists and mathematicians have released a carefully analyzed study of his work and have concluded that:

They found that Pollock’s drizzles, drips and splashes could be explained by physical phenomena known as jets, drops and sheets. Each is governed by the laws of fluid dynamics, which Pollock exploited using careful technique and manipulating the thickness of his pigments and paints with water and solvents, according to the researchers.

Their findings were published in a recent edition of Physics Today. While many people examine Pollock’s splatter paintings and think “My six year old could do that!” Science would seem to disagree!

“By pouring paint in this continuous jet fashion or by dripping it, he incorporated physics into the process of painting itself,” study researcher Andrzej Herczynski, a physicist at Boston College, said in a statement. “To the degree that he did and to the degree he varied his materials — by density or viscosity — he was experimenting in fluid dynamics, although his aim was not to describe the physics, but to produce a certain aesthetic effect.”

Read more about the article here at MSNBC or in Physics Today (with a paid subscription or single buy for the article).

5 thoughts on “Jackson Pollock Demonstrates Physics in his Strokes

  1. Jim Wheeler

    Interesting. I do see a difference between the drawings attached to our refrigerator and abstract expressionist works like Pollock’s, but it is hard to describe. It is not merely a matter of intent – that quality is present in both. It is not complexity, although there is some distinction there. It is certainly not verisimilitude for Pollock. Picasso’s abstract work sometimes displays perspective, as seen through a prism.

    Neither my wife nor I are artistically gifted, so when we had our retirement house built 11 years ago we hired a lady to select our wall paper and wall colors. We had never done such a thing before, but it was an excellent investment. We would never have selected what she did but the pleasure of it has endured. Art is real, but my engineering mind can’t define it.

    1. Jennifer Lockett Post author

      I hear you. I am a prime example of one who is able to appreciate art without actually having the ability to do it. My stick figures look like they are the victims of tragic farming accidents. Still, I can appreciate the talents and beauty that others create. Pollock is actually one of my favorite artists and I think one of the greatest American artists of history. Still, I can’t quite categorize ‘why,’ it’s the primal, emotional gut reaction that he evokes.

  2. Pingback: The Art Of Politics | Still Skeptical After All These Years

  3. povsuduvolosy

    Hearing Pollock’s name I can’t just not to put my 30 cents in=)
    Well, physics, huh… Ok, let it be.
    For me AA is like a music without words, like nature that does not need any excuses or explanation! The real value of art is in it’s very existence!
    Sorry for all these banality^_^

  4. Ron Ames

    Extremely charitable. Who believe that was his intent? Any dynamic involving a liquid “guided” by a drunk and an absorbent surface will “record physics” and how much credit to you get for that? Hmmmmm?

    Where is Science Guy when you really need him?


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