Decoding Jackson Pollock





It was my wife, Marianne Berardi, who first saw the letters.

We were looking at a reproduction of Jackson Pollock's breakthrough work, Mural, an 8-by 20-foot canvas bursting with physical energy that, in 1943, was unlike anything seen before.

The critic Clement Greenberg, Pollock's principal champion, said he took one look at the painting and realized that "Jackson was the greatest painter this country has produced." A Museum of Modern Art curator, the late Kirk Varnedoe, said Mural established Jackson Pollock as the world's premier modern painter.

I was researching a book about Pollock's lifelong relationship with his mentor, Thomas Hart Benton, the famed regionalist and muralist, when I sat puzzling over a reproduction of Mural after breakfast one morning with Marianne, herself an art historian. She suddenly said she could make out the letters S-O-N in blackish paint in the upper right area of the mural. Then she realized JACKSON ran across the entire top. And finally she saw POLLOCK below that....


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