You may recall Photographer Robyn Lea’s beautiful story on Jackson Pollock in Issue # 2 of Est Magazine. After discovering a stack of handwritten, unpublished recipes created by the artist and his wife Lee Krasner at their home in Springs, Long Island, Lea set about unearthing Jackson Pollock, the gardener, baker and dinner party host.
Working closely with Pollock’s niece Francesca, Lea has compiled a fascinating insight into the home life of the famous creative couple and the culinary heritage of the Pollock family. Dinner with Jackson Pollock features over 50 tried and tested favourite recipes including Jackson’s Prize Winning Apple Pie and his famous amongst friends, Spaghetti Sauce. Granted special access to the Pollock family archives, Lea has interviewed family and friends and photographed the couples home and studio to give readers a sneak peak into the private lives of Jackson and Krasner.
Jackson Pollock’s studio photographed by Robyn Lea.
Can you tell us what your relation to this book is?
It is my family’s cookbook! Jackson Pollock was my uncle. He died before I was born so I never met him but my father, Charles Pollock, his eldest brother, often talked about him, his work and about their family background. So this book is like a family treasure, it feels like an old family album and I treasure it.
Jackson at home with wife Lee and his mother.
How did you hear about this book and write the preface for it ?
Robyn Lea, the author and photographer, contacted me as she did all the members of the Pollock family. And we really had what the French call a ‘coup de foudre’. I immediately was fascinated by the way she discovered these recipes. I myself had discovered family letters in similar circumstances, and published a selection of those letters (Jackson Pollock & Family, American Letters, Polity Press,2010). So I was touched when we met and she told me about the project. I then helped her find grandma Pollock’s recipe album. Everyone in the family remembered it or had heard about it but no one knew where it was. Finally it was found with Charles’s granddaughter Jacqueline in California and Robyn went there to photograph it.
Pollock’s colours photographed by Robyn lea
Why do you feel this book is important?
First and foremost it comes at a time when the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is about to launch a series of Pollock exhibitions and the global launch of the book on April 25th coincides with the opening of two major shows. One will be centered on Jackson Pollock’s superb and majestic painting Mural (which measures 3 by 6 meters and has not been seen in Europe for many years) and the other will be a retrospective exhibition introducing nearly100 works by my father, Charles
Pollock, the eldest of the five brothers. In this show we will also be presenting for the first time ever a work by another Pollock brother, Sanford, as well as works by Thomas Hart Benton, Charles and Jackson’s professor at the Art Students League in New York in the 1930s.
The other reason I feel this book is important is that over the years my uncle has become a myth and one has somehow forgotten that he was also a man. This book portrays him not only as the artist/genius he was but also as a human being who loved to cook and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Hand written note by Jackson Pollock
Looking through the book and the recipes what important stories do they tell of your family heritage?
I think it says it all. The words that come to mind are style, beauty, simplicity, modesty, humility and generosity. I see all that in these recipes and also in Robyn Lea’s beautiful photographs. She manages to capture it all.
Your father Charles described his own father as a ‘craftsman on the soil’. Do you think LeRoy’s feeling for nature influenced the Pollock brothers?
Of course it did. Both parents were strong influences on their boys. One sees that clearly in the letters we published. The boys admired their parents and it was reciprocal. Can you imagine what it must have been like in the 1920s to have your eldest son, Charles, announce that he wants to become an artist?! And then a second son and then a third one! They were tolerant and proud. Anything their boys wanted to do was good for them. I remember this sentence LeRoy wrote in a letter to Jackson (who was I think 16 at the time) : “The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc.”. How beautiful is that?
The artists tools photographed by Robyn Lea.
If you were to choose your favorite recipes from the book to create a dinner party in your home in Paris, which would you choose and why?
There are so many! The desserts because I have a sweet tooth and my grandmother was famous for them but maybe also the “Slow cooked pot roast” because my father would have loved that dish!
Photographer Robyn Lea on location.
Dinner with Jackson Pollock by Robyn Lea available at Amazon or direct from publisher Assouline.