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The Five Most Expensive Jackson Pollock Paintings

Jackson Pollock Blue Poles

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an influential American painter who was instrumental in popularizing Expressionism in art. According to Britannica, Expressionism is a painting style whereby artists paint objects or events which induce certain emotions in people. In the art form, artists accomplish that through exaggeration, distortion, and primitivism.

His contemporaries described Jackson as gentle while sober and violent while drunk. As a result, he was able to depict such extreme emotions in his paintings. He always believed that art must be derived from the unconscious; hence he saw himself as the essential subject of his paintings. Due to his unique painting style, he received widespread publicity and was able to get recognized in his lifetime.

Now that we know about Jackson's paintings, it is time we mention his paintings. You will be shocked at their cost and wonder why they are costly. Truthfully, they are unique and original, and hence cannot easily be replicated. If you are curious about which of his paintings are expensive, here are five of them below.

5. Red Composition, 1946 ($18 million)

Jackson debuted his first drip painting with this painting. He made his painting as a sign that he was ready to depart from his previous painting techniques. From this year onwards, he abandoned paintbrushes completely. He sought to liberate himself from Surrealism and venture into Expressionism. Surrealism was a way of painting to elicit shock and curiosity.

Surrealist paintings used distorted and bizarre imagery that was inspired by dreams and not by reality. By embracing Expressionism, he hoped to be as good as Picasso. Many people owned this painting.

First, it was owned by his mentor and friend, Peggy Guggenheim. Peggy then gave it to James Ernst, the son of a painter named Max Ernst, in 1947. Later, the painting was acquired by Marshall Reisman, a New York businessman, in the 1950s. It remained in their collection for at least 40 years before donating it to the Everson Museum of Art in 1991, where it remains to this day.

4. Mural, 1943 ($140 million)

Based on its simplicity, most people have theorized that he painted this picture in one day. However, according to Guggenheim Bilbao, there was a restoration that revealed that it may have taken him several weeks to complete it. That is because the painting had many layers and at least 20 colors. Another reason it took so long is that the painting seems calculated. For instance, the author's gestures, drips, and brushstrokes are visible. Jackson claimed the mural represented a stampede of every animal in the American West. Currently, this painting is at the University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City.

3. Number 5, 1948 ($140 million)

The painting resembles a multi-colored bird nest. Some of the colors used in the painting include white, brown, black, grey, red and yellow. He made this piece during his drip period. According to Asking Lot, the drip period is a painting technique in which paint is dripped or poured onto a canvas. When he made this painting, he used new techniques to express emotions with colors and lines. Scholars tend to think that this painting displays excellent mathematical precision. It is evident from the angles he placed the colors. For instance, the colors interweave and cover the entire surface area. Additionally, the colors explode in multiple directions at once. Today, it is privately owned in New York.

2. Convergence, 1952 ($300 million)

There is a splatter of several colors like yellow, black, blue, and orange in this painting. When he made his painting, he abandoned his signature style of colorful abstract drip paintings in his work. For instance, he began making black the dominant color in his paintings; hence his paintings were called the "black period."

When he made his painting, he anticipated that few people would like or understand this painting. His prediction turned out correct when many people were disinterested in it when it was first exhibited. Viewers termed the painting too subtle. However, the painting was appreciated posthumously. Critics began to appreciate the visuals of the painting without focusing too much on the reason behind the painting. This painting is housed at Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

1. Blue Poles, 1952 ($350 million)

The painting is one of the largest since it was painted on a canvas, 2 meters high and 5 meters wide. You can view it in the National Gallery of Australia. This painting is like solving a crossword puzzle, so you have to interpret what the lines mean. Jackson was an Abstract Expressionist, hence explains why he uses vague imagery in this painting.

First, the painting contains dripped green, blue, silver, red, and silver lines. Next, there are eight blue pole-like lines down the canvas at different angles to each other. Lastly, there is a footprint on the top right. The presence of a footprint in the painting means he made it on the floor. There is an interesting backstory to this painting.

Jackson made this painting when he was severely depressed. To distract himself from suicidal thoughts, he made this painting. While making this painting, his friend, Tony Smith, visited him. Together, they became drunk while Jackson was still painting this piece. They began splashing paint and broken glass on the canvas. The two men walked on their bare feet, and the glass cut them. That would explain the presence of the footprint on the canvas.


When we walk into a museum, we usually encounter paintings we do not understand. Furthermore, we wonder why they are highly-priced. Based on Jackson's story, you finally understand why his paintings are expensive. For instance, his paintings revolutionized the way people viewed paintings. He realized that he could not continue making the same kind of paintings.

Even though some people did not understand his paintings at first, they eventually sold well since the viewers needed time to embrace the new painting styles. Also, his paintings are expensive due to his backstory. Consider the case of the Blue Poles painting. At the time, he was at his lowest moments. However, thanks to this painting, we understand this painting better. Very few painters can tell a story in their paintings as Jackson did with this one.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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