Sea Change

Photo: Eduardo Calderón

Sea Change


Jackson Pollock

American, 1912-1956

Sea Change, 1947, was created at the beginning of Jackson Pollock's most iconic period: the "drip-period," from 1947 to 1950. The painting was owned by the art dealer and patron Peggy Guggenheim until its donation to SAM in 1958.

Jackson Pollock is perhaps the best known abstract expressionist painter from the 1940s and 1950s. His painterly style was labeled "action painting" in reference to the electric energy and movement contained in his canvases. His life and work were captured in Hans Namuth's classic 1951 film and featured in interviews published in Life (1949) and Time (1956) magazines. In 1942, Pollock was introduced to Peggy Guggenheim, who played a pivotal role in launching his career. Guggenheim offered Pollock a monthly stipend in exchange for works of art that she would own and exhibit in her gallery (his first show there, at Art of This Century, was in 1943). In 1945, Pollock married fellow painter Lee Krasner and moved to a cottage-studio in Springs, Long Island, where this work was created. He painted furiously for over a decade, altering the course of modern art in the process, before dying tragically in a car crash at age 44. His untimely death, coupled with his signature artistic achievement, catapulted him to mythical stardom.
Artist and commercial oil paint, with gravel, on canvas
57 7/8 x 44 1/8 in. (147 x 112.1 cm)
Gift of Signora Peggy Guggenheim
Provenance: The artist; to Art of this Century, New York / Collection of Peggy Guggenheim, New York and Venice (in stock of gallery when it closed, sent to Ms. Guggenheim in Venice by Betty Parsons, 1948); to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 1958
Photo: Eduardo Calderón
Not currently on view

I like to use dripping, fluid paint. I also use sand, broken glass, pebbles, string, nails or other foreign matter…. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.

Jackson Pollock speaking in Hans Namuth's film, Jackson Pollock, 1951

The Legacy of Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock's' non-hierarchical compositions have influenced minimalist artists like Agnes Martin, Tony Smith and Carl André, whose works have the same elements in the middle as at any edge and use grids to guide the compositional structure. Despite minimalism's rise as a direct response to the expressive, gestural and emotionally subjective qualities of abstract expressionism, there are various Pollockian influences to consider in the work of these artists.

Martin, Smith and André all befriended abstract expressionists during their art studies and first artistic forays in New York City. Their work, although more reductive and impersonal than that of many of the abstract expressionists, is full of movement, rhythm and energy despite the geometrical constraints they imposed on themselves. Minimalism simply represented a fresh look at content, form and space. Much like Pollock's drip paintings, these works appear to have no beginning and no end but are an endless array of energy contained within the work's framework.

In particular, Agnes Martin's early grid compositions on paper, consisting of black, white and brown bands, explore an all-over rhythm of marks not dissimilar to Pollock's work. Martin embraces Taoist principles that are concerned with reaching a higher spiritual dimension through artistic creation, a parallel concern to the contemplative nature of Pollock's webs of paint.
The Cry, 1962, Agnes Bernice Martin, 84.187

Pollock's Lasting Influence

Jackson Pollock's influence can be seen on all subsequent artistic developments, from movements in sculpture and photography to performance, video and installation art. His very personal application of paint on a canvas, the layered strands of fluid paint, the trancelike dance and the placing of the canvas on the studio floor have affected the way that later generations of artists think about the creative process and the creation of non-hierarchical compositions. By not giving any part of the canvas particular privileges but treating it as a unified field of vision, Pollock paved the way for numerous other approaches that began to appear in his wake.


Michael Darling, Former Jon & Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seattle Art Museum, describes Sea Change by Jackson Pollock


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, Betty Parsons Gallery, Jackson Pollock, 1948.

New York, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1950. Cat. no. 22.

Milan, Italy, Galleriea d'Arte del Naviglio, Jackson Pollock, 1950.

New York, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1951. Cat. no. 148.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Contemporary Trends in International Art, Apr. 7 - May 1, 1955.

New Directions in American Painting, organized by the Poses Institutes of Fine Arts, and Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Utica, New York, Muson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Dec. 1, 1963 - Jan. 5, 1964; New Orleans, Louisiana, Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, Feb. 7 - Mar. 8, 1964; Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta Art Association, Mar. 18 - Apr. 22, 1964; Louisville, Kentucky, J.B. Speed Art Museum, May 4 - June 7, 1964; Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Art Museum, June 22 - Sept. 20, 1964; St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University, Oct. 5 - 30, 1964; Detroit, Michigan, Detroit Institute of Arts, Nov. 11 - Dec. 6, 1964). Text by Sam Hunter. Cat. no. 43, reproduced.

Boston, Massachusetts, Institute of Contemporary American Art, Painting Without a Brush, 1965.

Washington, D.C., Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Twentieth Century Painting from Collections in the State of Washington, (dates not recorded) 1966 (Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, Dec. 8, 1966 - Jan. 8, 1967).

Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Museum of Art, Inaugural Exhibition of the Tacoma Art Museum, 1971.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, American Art, Third Quarter Century, Aug. 23 - Oct. 14, 1973. Text by Jan van der Marck. Cat. no. 51, reproduced p. 8.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Seattle Art Museum Lends, Mar. 13 - Apr. 11, 1976. No cat. no., reproduced.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Collection Highlights: 1945 To The Present, Sept. 12, 1996 - June 1, 1997.

New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Jackson Pollock, Nov. 4, 1998 - Feb. 16, 1999.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Anne Gerber Biennial: 2000 1/2, Going Forward Looking Back, May 8 - Aug. 4, 2000.

Venice, Italy, Musei Civici of Venice, Jackson Pollock, Mar. 23-July 15, 2002.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Mark Tobey: Smashing Forms and Mark Tobey and Friends, Nov. 16, 2002 - Apr. 6, 2003.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, International Abstraction: Making Painting Real, May 2, 2003 - Feb. 29, 2004.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modern in America, July 8, 2004 - Feb. 27, 2005.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Modernism and Craft, Part 1, Mar. 16, 2013 - Mar. 16, 2014.
Published ReferencesThe Art Quarterly, Autumn 1956, p. 311.

The Art Quarterly, Autumn 1958, p. 329.

"Selected Works." Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, p. 119.

Young, Tara Reddy. ContemporaryArtProject. Exh. Cat. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 2002; p. 13, reproduced fig. 1 [not in exhibition].

McClusky, Pamela. Art from Africa: Long Steps Never Broke A Back. Exh. Cat. Seattle, Washington: Seattle Art Museum, 2002; p. 20, reproduced fig. 3 [not in exhibition].

Kangas, Matthew, et al. Figure to Field: The Art of Jacqueline Barnett. La Conner, Washington: Museum of Northwest Art, 2016; pp. 16-17, reproduced p. 17.

Williamson, Beth. Between Art Practice and Psychoanalysis Mid-Twentieth Century: Anton Ehrenzweig in Context." Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2015, fig. 7.2, p. 19.

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