description of Guardians of the Secret by Jackson Pollock

This canvas is four feet tall, over six feet wide, and is blanketed with a tangle of symbols, fantastical creatures, curving lines, and abstract shapes. In the center of the painting is a horizontal rectangle that resembles a graffiti-covered wall. Thin, black, hieroglyphic squiggles seem to dance amidst smudges of yellow, blue, green and gray. Above the inner rectangle are small, semi-abstract creatures painted in black with yellow and white details. One looks like a vicious shrimp, and another resembles Pac Man with a puffy, gray wig. Beneath the rectangle, lying down at the bottom of the canvas, is a large doglike animal with pointed ears and a long snout. On the sides of the canvas are two highly-abstract totemic figures. The figure on our left features long curving lines of yellow and blue, and has a large fist near the top. The figure on our right resembles a tall bottle with a stubby neck. It has symbols painted down its left side, a tall, thin staff, and a crown, or cap, of golden yellow.

Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943
Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943; oil on canvas, 48 3/8 in. x 75 3/8 in. (122.89 cm x 191.47 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Albert M. Bender Collection, Albert M. Bender Bequest Fund purchase; © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Guardians of the Secret
Artist name
Jackson Pollock
Date created
1943
Classification
painting
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
48 3/8 in. x 75 3/8 in. (122.89 cm x 191.47 cm)
Date acquired
1945
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
Albert M. Bender Collection, Albert M. Bender Bequest Fund purchase
Copyright
© Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/45.1308
Artwork status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900

Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to confirm it will be on view.

Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at copyright@sfmoma.org.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.