'Artists Unframed' shows Jackson Pollock and more in personal moments

'Artists Unframed' presents more than 100 photographs from the Smithsonian Archives of American Art

Images of painter Jackson Pollock at work in his studio are well known: The seemingly dark and brooding artist is crouched on the floor, intensely dripping or flicking brightly colored paint onto his canvases.

Lesser known is the artist's domestic side: carefully carving a turkey at home on Thanksgiving afternoon, for instance, or lovingly trimming his father's hair.

A new book, "Artists Unframed," presents more than 100 photographs from the collections of the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, all depicting famous artists in intimate, personal moments. Some images are posed, others are candids. There's an un-self-conscious Andy Warhol on the beach at Fire Island, N.Y., sprawled out on the sand with his friends. A young Ansel Adams mugs for the camera in a train station photo booth. Pablo Picasso poses in shorts on a sunny balcony with his young daughter, Maya — the photograph inscribed, "His daughter with whom he's very much in love."

The images in the book were culled by Merry A. Foresta, formerly director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, a 10-year effort to assess and promote photography collections throughout the Smithsonian. She divvied up her selections into sections, including work, play, family and friends, and "This is Me!"

"I chose what I saw as snapshots from the golden era of snapshot photography," Foresta says of the turn of the 20th century, when it was vogue to carry around a Kodak Brownie camera, tucked into a purse or pocket, to capture everyday moments. "Artists Unframed," Foresta says, "is really meant to be a small book about small pictures of these incredible lives."

In one image, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo — "the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of their day," Foresta says — canoodle in the late-afternoon Mexican sun. Alexander Calder and Agnes Rindge Claflin toy with a mobile-in-progress at the artist's Connecticut studio in another. There are even images of Pollock digging on the beach with his dog.

"Suddenly you feel like you know him better and he's a real person," Foresta says. "That's what's so special about these early, innocent pictures."

Twitter: @debvankin

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