95 5/8 x 237 3/4 in. (242.9 x 603.9 cm)
Gift of Peggy Guggenheim, 1959.6
It's "a stampede... [of] every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface."
Mural is considered by many to be the most important modern American painting ever made. For Mural, Pollock evoked the myriad stylistic techniques and theoretical methodologies to which he had been exposed. He synthesized these elements in the moment and created a painting that is inundated with personal, cultural, social, political, and art-world references: the work of his early mentor Thomas Hart Benton and the Regionalist style; the landscape of the Midwest and Native American imagery and philosophy; commercial art; the Works Progress Association (WPA); Mexican murals, Soviet Social Realism and Marxism; the influence of refugee artists from wartime Europe; Asian calligraphy; African and other non-Western art; film; the explosion of World War II and America's response; Picasso's work, especially Guernica (1937); and Jungian psychotherapy.
Pollock harnessed all of these elements, with their diverse strengths, as he experienced them in a frenetic coming-togetherness, acting and reacting within his own bravura-painting performance.
Mural was given to the University of Iowa in 1951. In the 1940s, the UI School of Art and Art History was called "Greenwich Village West"—given the status of former faculty such as Philip Guston, as well as the school's growing reputation as a notable laboratory for creative experimentation and innovation. Peggy Guggenheim, the leading dealer of Modern Art in New York at the time, recognized the significance of the UI studio art program, when she gave Mural to the University. (Guggenheim also donated several additional works to the UI, including Pollock's Portrait of H.M., 1945; Irene Rice Pereira's Eight Oblongs, 1945; Charles Seliger's Homage to Erasmus Darwin, 1947; and Roberto Matta's Like Me Like X, 1942.)
Mural is will return to Iowa at the Sioux City Art Center (July 12, 2014-April 1, 2015). The painting has recently finished a two-year technical study and conservation treatment by research scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and conservators at the J. Paul Getty Museum.