NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Was Jackson Pollock the Greatest Modern American Painter? A Quantitative Investigation

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 8830
Issued in March 2002
NBER Program(s):   LS

A survey of the illustrations in textbooks of modern art demonstrates that scholars do consider Jackson Pollock the most important modern American painter, but not by a wide margin over Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, the leading artists of the following generation. The distribution of the illustrations furthermore reveals a sharp contrast in the careers of the major artists of these two generations: the Abstract Expressionists produced their most important contributions late in their careers, whereas their successors innovated early in theirs. This difference resulted from the differing approaches of the artists, for the Abstract Expressionists were experimental innovators, who developed new visual images by a process of trial and error, while the leading artists of the 1960s were conceptual innovators, whose work embodied new ideas.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8830

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