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Jackson Pollock: An American Saga Paperback – September 1, 1998

28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0913391198 ISBN-10: 9780913391198 Edition: 3rd

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In their monumental and impressive biography, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith strive to achieve nothing less than a full understanding of the complex social and psychological forces that lay behind the work of an artist considered by many to be America’s greatest abstract painter."--William Drozdiak, The Washington Post

"The most thoroughly detailed portrait ever of a U.S. artist. It's as imposing as a history book, as entertaining as a novel and as close as the reader may ever come to sharing the breadth - and sensing the madness - of artistic genius and the genesis of a masterpiece."--David Zimmerman, USA Today

"Amazing. … An extraordinarily riveting work, full of miraculous research." Meryle Secrest, Chicago Sun-Times

"Brilliant and definitive ... so absorbing in its narrative drive and so exhaustively detailed that it makes everything that came before seem like trial balloons."--Edward J. Sozanski, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Unprecedented. … Never before have we had such a thorough and affecting account of an American artist. Narratives this broad, detailed and coherent usually are produced only by popular epic novelists or, alternately, social historians of superior talent. But by confidently linking their huge, colorful canvas to critical points in the emotional and aesthetic framework of Pollock’s art, the remarkable Naifeh and Smith have provided us with something that’s as entertaining as a novel, as persuasive as superior history an as uniquely informative as a kind of catalogue raisonne of the social and psychological components of vital 20th-century painting." Artelia Court, The Los Angeles Times

"Clearly the definitive work." Stephen Amidon, Financial Times (London)

Review

Unprecedented...Never before have we had such a thorough and affecting account of an American artist -- Los Angeles Times
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 934 pages
  • Publisher: Woodward/White, Incorporated; 3rd edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780913391198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0913391198
  • ASIN: 0913391190
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Renee Thorpe on March 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
Excellent index and thorough, chronological coverage of events in the life of this important American artist.
It is a huge book but moves fairly quickly, since Pollock's life was really very interesting. Any art history student studying Pollock and the New York abstract expressionist movement will find plenty of insight here. Includes wonderful collection of black and white photos from all phases of the man's life.
Pollock had a tough time dealing with the fame and notoriety foisted upon him as a genius of the New York school, and for many years Pollock has often been dismissed as the phony he himself feared he was. It certainly is refreshing to see Pollock as a whole man (talented, wise, adventurous, flawed, tenacious, alcoholic), not just as an overrated art star. (The recent Kurt Varnadoe book on his art is also excellent in this way). Self doubting artists may find some degree of comfort in this book, actually.
Detailed, unbiased writing. One of the best artist biographies I've ever read.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By jfpeck@juno.com on January 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Absolutely essential for the serious Pollock scholar. It should be kept in mind, however, that Naifeh and Smith are journalists and not art historians. This becomes painfully evident when the two authors delve into art criticism and interpretation. Example: Naifeh and Smith would have us believe that Pollock's use of a screaming horses in drawings from the late 30s- early 40s has to do with his memory of an accident from his childhood years and is not a response to Picasso's Guernica, then on veiw in NYC. Guardians of the Secret in thier interpretation becomes an abstract family portrait instead of part of the discourse of modern art. To be sure,a Freudian approach can be overdone.
Also, why all the facination with Pollock's may-be sort-of homosexual urges/practices? Possibly to sell more books? They are the only biographers to mention it, and they infact harp on the subject endlessly. In short, being homosexaul is important to understanding Andy Warhol's work, but not so Pollock.
Finally, the authors make a big deal about getting Krasner's cooperation for this biography, but fail to mention that she spoke at length to many other interviewers. Her possible biases are never touched on. Also, was it just good fortune that Krasner died before the publication, or was it a prerequisite? I think she would have sued if she had ever read the book.
I can not deny that this book is essential, but be warned, it has major flaws. History will rememember the contribution that Naifeh and Smith made, but we should remember their shortcomings as well.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. Remington on April 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Jackson Pollock as presented in this fast reading, well researched and impassioned (it is most obvious that the authors are devoted to placing Pollock rightfully amoung the giants of Art) biography, comes across as a sullen, abusive, self-hating, inarticulate, drunken visionary who, despite his many great personality flaws, changed the course of modern art forever.
The subtitle of "An American Saga" is most appropriate considering the vast expanses of geographical and historical space Pollock journeyed in his short life. The authors wisely build a living frame of reference for Pollock to exist. There is absolutely no way a rule breaker can develop in a vacum and Pollock was no exception. The supporting cast of characters (including America's rich landscapes- so vividly captured here!) stands as a virtual who's who of American Art. Thomas Hart Benton, Peggy Guggenhiem and others recieve detailed sketches as do the WPA and other organizations that helped to shape Pollock's path.
Pollock may not have been a "good man" in a moral sense. He comes across as boorish and self-centered, and tragically in many cases, the world's great artists frequently share Pollocks flaws. I seriously doubt that I would have enjoyed spending any time with Pollock the man. Luckily we don't have to, but we do have Pollock's rich legacy of Art in which we can all share.
A must read for any lover or student of American Culture, Art or History.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By MydaRay on February 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Monstrous, pathetic, sexually dysfunctional, violent, coarse, demanding, uncommunicative and, most famously, a terrible, terrible drunk - all the bad boy stuff is here. Read it for that and also for the background which includes generous looks at the early 20th century American West, Depression era New York City, Abstract Expressionism and the artistic infighting it occasioned. I don't start 800 plus pages of reading lightly any more given my age and the books that demand my attention but this biography got its hooks into me and wouldn't let go.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Lapins on March 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a well researched and written biography. Pollock was alcoholic, abusive and not someone I would have wanted to know. He hurt the woman he loved- or at least loved him. This biography travels through the world of art and money as well as the bowels of self-hatred and Hell. Was he an artist or just lucky (drip painting)? Do some brilliant moments in creativity justify such abuse toward others? Was his confusion about his sexual identity at the core of his artistic and abusive self? This biography goes into the psychological and creative mind and life of an extremely complex though not so interesting individual. Given the right circumstances just about anyone can appear interesting and brilliant. Good connections and lucky breaks can pave the way to painting a brilliant illusion. Maybe that was his greatest masterpiece. With that all said, the biography is brilliant, and that's no illusion. One of the most insightful reads on the art world during the middle of the twentieth century. You'll read about famous people, and find a new and enlightening perspective of how it evolved and the stuff it was made of. Highly enjoyable and recommended!
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