Today the J. Paul Getty Museum opens its much-anticipated exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s pivotal 1943 painting, “Mural,” commissioned by art collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim for the entry hall of her Manhattan townhouse. On Monday I wrote about how the Getty’s remarkable, 21-month conservation of the large and visually energetic work, which suffered several structural and other problems during the last 70 years, has returned it to something close to what it likely was when it first left Pollock’s studio.
The in-depth analysis of the more than 8-by-20-foot canvas has corrected misinformation about the painting’s genesis, including when Pollock actually made it and how long it took. The Getty has moved back the date to as much as six months earlier than what had previously been thought. In determining the chronology of an important artist’s development, precision in dating really matters. So does his working method.
The exhibition features detailed explanations of the complicated conservation process, and it includes several short but very informative videos. Those can also be seen on the Getty’s website, and they’ve been posted on YouTube as well. One is an analysis of the paint Pollock used, another looks at the way he applied that paint (some experiments pre-figure his later drip technique) and the third gives an overview of how the mammoth painting was cleaned and re-stretched (watch it above). Each video has a running-time of between two to three minutes.
In 1959 Guggenheim donated “Mural” to the University of Iowa, where it’s now a centerpiece in the collection of the Museum of Art. The UIMA website -- which will need some updating in light of the Getty’s discoveries -- features fascinating correspondence about the gift between the donor, the university and others over the course of more of than two decades.