Profile: Jackson Pollock, artist

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The Independent Online

Isn't that the guy who did all the splashes of paint and squiggles?

Yes, that's the one. The oh-so-influential American painter was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He enjoyed fame and notoriety but was also something of an enigma – a recluse who at the peak of his fame abandoned the "drip style" that had made his name. He died in 1956 in a car accident, aged 44.

Why the interest now?

His extended family have claimed he created a "myth" around his apparently underprivileged background. His niece, Francesca Pollock, claims he came from an "exceptional" family, with intellect and culture rather than the "hick" background popularly portrayed. She points to soon-to-be published letters, edited by her and her mother, between her father and his brother discussing art, politics and current affairs as proof.

Family drama and a book to promote? What about his art? Was there any method to the madness of those squiggles?

Apparently so! According to a recent study in Physics Today by a Boston College physicist and art historian there was nothing random or mad about Pollock's work. The authors even came up with a mathematical equation to explain how he dripped paint on canvas. Something to do with the thickening and thinning of the paints and the speed with which he dribbled them dictated precisely how much the paint would coil.