Pollock's Pasiphae oil on canvas abstract expressionist painting was created in 1943 just after his first one-man exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's New York 'Art of This Century' gallery.
It is the largest of Pollock's 'mythological' pictures from the mid-1940s. Pollock believed that mythology embodied universal human truths with symbolism.
The picture boasts a firm compositional structure and comprises a central white beast flanked either side by two figures standing in a sentry-like pose.
Pollock places these figures in a complex arena of enigmatic symbols and free-form abstraction reminiscent of early tribal carvings.
With tangled brushstrokes and flourishes, this work characterises Pollock's particular interpretation of automatism, a Surrealist practice in which the artist relinquishes conscious control over the paintbrush when producing works of art.
Pollock painted the outlines of the figures first, then applied thin washes of colour, progressing to opaque swathes of colour, applied with increasing vigour and using both paintbrush and palette knife.
Jackson Pollock (1912-19568) was an American artist of notable influence. He challenged the dominance of European Art schools and helped introduce a radical new type of modern art: abstract expressionism.
It is often said that Cubism inspired the look of Pollock's abstract paintings and Surrealism inspired the content. Much of Pollock's early work was also influenced by the psychotherapy he received to treat his alcoholism.
Pollock's paintings were never planned or pre-named; they were usually granted a loosely evocative and not entirely descriptive title after completion.
The completed Pasiphae picture was originally entitled 'Moby Dick'. However, upon hearing the curator at the Museum of Modern Art (James Johnson Sweeney) relate the myth of the Cretan princess Pasiphae (who gave birth to a half-man, half-bull Minotaur), Pollock renamed the picture accordingly.
Pasiphae is currently displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.