Number 13A: Arabesque Artist: Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)


Modern and Contemporary Art

On view, 3rd floor, Modern and Contemporary Art and Design

Jackson Pollock was a pivotal member of the New York avant-garde after the Second World War. His notoriety stemmed from his novel manner of applying paint. Inspired by Navajo sand painting, Pollock abandoned the tradition of easel painting, which he considered "a dying form," choosing instead to work on unstretched canvas laid on the ground onto which he would drip, fling, and scratch paint using dried brushes, sticks, and pigment hurled directly from the can. Moving beyond pictorial representation or premeditated design, this technique, which became known as "action painting," gave each work an expressive immediacy related to the artist's subconscious.

Number 13 was one of a series of large, horizontal murals that Pollock made in the late 1940s. Its looping skeins of paint poured onto the henna-brown stained canvas possess an airy spatiality that distinguishes the painting from some of Pollock’s other, more densely-painted works. Although "Arabesque" is most likely a name given to the mural by Pollock’s friends, the evocation of dance is fitting for its rhythmically repeating passages, which inscribe the gestures the artist made as he moved around the canvas. The composition of curling layers of black, gray, and white enamel seems to obey the limits of the canvas, giving the painting a sense of unity that may have been what led poet and MoMA curator Frank O’Hara to call the work "classic."

The artist’s dealers from the 1950s recall that Pollock had a special affinity for Number 13, and the artist kept it displayed in a prominent spot in his living room for several years.


Oil and enamel on canvas


37 × 117 in. (94 × 297.2 cm)
framed: 38 1/2 × 117 1/2 × 2 1/8 in. (97.79 × 298.451 × 5.398 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Richard Brown Baker, B.A. 1935

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Sidney Janis Gallery, NY, 12/1/55
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 33, 236–39, no. 114, 237 detail, ill
  • David Anfam et al., Seen and Imagined: The World of Clifford Ross, eds. Jay A. Clarke and Joseph C. Thompson, exh. cat. (North Adams, Mass.: Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015), 52, fig. 5
  • Jennifer Farrell et al., Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011), 184–86, fig. 1
  • Suzanne Boorsch and Jennifer Gross, "The Richard Brown Baker Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery," in "Recent Acquisitions," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2008), 30, fig. 2
  • "Williams Museum to Drip with Pollock Starting Friday," The Advocate (April 13, 2006), 17
  • Ronni Gordon, "Williams College Exhibit: Painting a New Portrait of "Dripster"," Leisure (April 9, 2006), 1, ill
  • Timothy Cahill, "Bringing a Pollock to Life," Art Conservator 1, no. 1 (November 2006), 6–7, ill
  • Emily Ballew Neff, The Modern West: American Landscapes, 1890–1950, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006), 272–73, ill
  • Laurie Schneider, Looking at Art (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003), 90, 171
  • Jim Coddington, "Jackson Pollock's 'Number 13A, 1948: Arabesque'," in "Recent Projects and Issues in Conservation," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1999), 138, fig. 1
  • Johanna Garfield, "Getting There First: Reflections of a Collector," New York Times (October 28, 1998), D43, ill
  • Jackson Pollock, exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1998), 9, 249, ill
  • Sasha M. Newman, ed., Collecting with Richard Brown Baker, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1995), 6, ill
  • Fortissimo!: Thirty years from the Richard Brown Baker Collection of contemporary art, exh. cat. (Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 1985), 10–11, 27–29, 52, 143, no. 113, ill
  • A Selection of American and European Paintings from the Richard Brown Baker Collection, exh. cat. (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Art, 1973), 7, no. 57, ill
  • Eighty Works from the Richard Brown Baker Collection, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1961), 6, ill
  • Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture: Collected by Yale Alumni: An Exhibition: May 19 - June 26, 1960, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1960), 132, ill
  • Paintings Since 1945: A Collection in the Making Lent by Richard Brown Baker, exh. cat. (Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 1959),
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abstract (general art genre)

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