Jackson Pollock's final resting place, Green River Cemetery, Springs, East Hampton, New York.
Green River Cemetery is a far cry from opulent memorial parks like Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, where the remains of Hollywood royals reside.
Hans Namuth’s photograph of Jackson Pollock painting "Autumn Rhythm; Number 30," 1950 (Courtesy MOMA BULLETIN, VOL. XXIV, NO. 2, 1956–57)
Jackson Pollock's monument, a 50-ton boulder sourced from the area, caps a hill at the back of Green River Cemetery. Its dramatic size serves as a fitting tribute to the talent whose paint splatters and drips launched Abstract Expressionism.
Jackson Pollock’s “Echo: Number 25, 1951,” a seminal work featured in “Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots” presented at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2015-2016.(Collection MoMA, NYC © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society, NYC)
View of the back of Jackson Pollock's grave. The lichen- covered boulder is the polar opposite of pristine statuary of angels and saints that typically figure in funerary art. The massive natural stone is a fitting memorial for this larger-than-life painter whose talent could not be restrained.
Pollock's wife, abstract painter Lee Krasner, also went with a rough-hewn stone for her marker, but of a far more modest size. The painting couple now reside alongside each other for eternity.
Lee Krasner's "The Seasons," 1957, demonstrates her prowess with an epic scale. Collection Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (© Pollock-Krasner Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016. Digital Image © Whitney Museum)
Portrait painter Elaine de Kooning, who worked in an innovative abstract style, is among the legions of American greats at Green River Cemetery. Elaine de Kooning House, the residency launched by Dallas Art Fair co-founder Chris Byrne, was the occasion for my visit to East Hampton. The abstract bronze that adorns de Kooning's grave is inspired by a series of paintings she created that referenced Paleolithic cave art.
Elaine de Kooning in a self-portrait from the mid-century. The artist, whose career was over-shadowed by her spouse — Ab Ex painter Willem de Kooning — is now having a revival.
Multi-media master Stan VanDerBeek's grave stands out at Green River. The late pioneer of film and new media was showcased at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2011, an exhibition named as one of the best shows in America that year.
Stan VanDerBeek at the List Visual Arts Center, MIT in 2011. The retrospective, co-organized by MIT and the CAMH, then traveled to Houston. (Courtesy MIT List Visual Arts Center)
American minimalist painter Ad Reinhardt's simple, monastic tombstone mirrors the strength and direct impact of his canvases.
Ad Reinhardt's "Abstract Painting, 1954-1960," at The Menil Collection (© Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society, New York). The mystical painter was in the pantheon of 20th-century artists collected by Dominique and John de Menil.
Jimmy Ernst, son of Surrealist and Dadaist artist Max Ernst, was a painter as well as director for patroness Peggy Guggenheim at Art of This Century gallery-museum.
The text on Jimmy Ernst's grave begins, "Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity."
Jimmy Ernst's "The Elements," 1942 (Courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco). Ernst's deft and original painting is considered as a bridge between the Surrealism of his father, Max Ernst, and the Abstract Expressionism of his own time.
Jimmy Ernst's wife, the equally notable gallerist and artist Dallas Ernst, spends eternity next to him.
Dallas Ernst, a pioneering artist, was also wife to painter Jimmy Ernst, and the daughter-in-law of the inimitable Max Ernst. Dallas made the most of her artistic family ties, studying ceramics with the Hopi and Acoma Pueblo tribes of the Southwest, and also owning Five Mile River Gallery in Connecticut, where her progressive programming included exhibiting the works of Matisse, Tanguy, Duchamp, and her own father-in-law.
The poetic gravestone of Hannah Wilke, a feminist artist whose work remains intensely topical today.
Hannah Wilke's provocative photographs include "S.O.S. (Curlers)," 1975 (Courtesy Timeline.com)
Writer Barbara Goldsmith's monument is unmistakable, bearing a stack of books she authored, rendered in stone.
Barbara Goldsmith's biography of Marie Curie.
The grave of Harold Rosenberg, critic and confident to the Abstract Expressionists.
Elaine de Kooning's portrait of Harold Rosenberg underscores the depth of their friendship. Fitting that they both rest at Green River. Willem de Kooning opted for another burial arrangement, preferring to not be with a gaggle of other painters in the after life. (marchmadnessatthebroad.com)
Rosenberg authored one of the definite books on de Kooning, written when the American master was alive.
Architect Charles Gwathmey is among the noteworthy at the bucolic Green River Cemetery.
Gwathmey House, Amagansett, New York, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, 1967. (Photo Scott Frances/Esto) A member of a group of New York-based modernist architects known as The Five, Gwathmey's inventively geometric home for his parents, shown here, but him on the map when he was a 20-something Yale grad.
Henry Geldzahler whose roles ranged from Metropolitan Museum of Art curator, to NEA director to commissioner for the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, was also the subject of his own film, directed by Andy Warhol in 1964.
Andy Warhol's Polaroid portrait of his dapper running buddy, art critic and cultural influencer, Henry Geldzahler, 1979 (Courtesy Christie's)
Stuart Davis' impressive stele towers above many of the grave markers at Green River.
Stuart Davis' words mirror the excitement of his era as a creator in post-World War II America: "The artist is a cool spectator — a reporter at an arena of hot events."
Stuart Davis's jazzy take on cubism, "Colonial Cubism," 1954, collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (© Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York)
Actor Peter Boyle rests amid the art-world luminaries at Green River Cemetery.
Peter Boyle's memorable turn as the lead in the 1974 horror spoof "Young Frankenstein" directed by Mel Brooks.
SPRINGS, New York — Everyone knows about Andy Warhol’s gravesite — thanks to the late Pop master’s perpetual live cam from his final resting place in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
But few are aware that the 20th century’s greatest abstract painter is buried beneath a boulder — in an off-the-beaten-path cemetery alongside other titans of American art.
On the Trail of Art History
Only locals and a small flock of the curious have visited the modest, albeit beautiful, cemetery in the hamlet of Springs, New York, where among those interned is the painter who forged the Abstract Expressionist movement — Jackson Pollock.
Pollock was of the post-World War II generation whose talent and tenacity transformed New York into the capital of modern art.
Along with Warhol, Picasso, and Dalí, he is one of the artists best known by the public in perpetuity thanks to this article that appear in Life almost 70 years ago.
His final resting place is hard to miss once you get there. His burial is marked by a massive (reportedly 50-ton) boulder sourced from the surrounding wooded area, in a cemetery hidden in plain site in a small, originally blue-collar, town now nestled among the glittering retreat of America’s most wealthy — in East Hampton.
But you’ll find few tourists there — Green River Cemetery in Springs, New York, is the province of art-world insiders who want to trek to the Hamptons but prefer Springs’ less glitzy energy. You’ll find them blending with the locals and sitting on the front porch of the nearby community coffee and lunch spot, Springs General Store, where Pollock famously bartered an Ab Ex canvas for groceries.
Art pilgrims also voyage to the Pollock-Krasner House, which is within walking distance of the cemetery (ask at the house for a map of who’s who in the graves at Green River, which is approximately a mile and a half from the house museum).
The day and time of my cemetery excursion was an early afternoon mid-fall, after checking out the Pollock-Krasner House — a surprisingly simple, vernacular country home of the late Victorian era, sited upon lush grounds and facing an expansive field. Nearby to the house where Pollock and Krasner’s tumultuous marriage took place was the barn-like studio where the canvases that birthed the Ab Ex movement came to be.
Now back to our cemetery discovery. With the exception of a local family, a senior and her granddaughter, tending to a several generations of their family plot, our group of two were the sole visitors to Green Valley this golden autumn afternoon.
Only a simple wooden sign marks Green River, which is set upon a rolling three-plus acres. The cemetery dates from 1902, but features a scattering of graves from the Civil War era before it was incorporated. It is a nonprofit, and nondenominational.
Fifty Tons Marks the Spot
Alongside a hilly rise in the back, a grand monument formed from a boulder commanded our attention; its emphatic bronze plaque bore in hand-written script — the artist’s signature — the name of the illustrious painter interned there, Jackson Pollock.
In keeping with the Jewish tradition of honoring the dead, stones were placed on top of the grave, and in this case, all along the top of Pollock’s mammoth boulder.
There was also a shattered champagne flute, which seemed either a metaphor for Pollock’s life cut short, or an allusion to the ritual of breaking a drinking vessel at a Jewish wedding.
Across from Pollock, his wife, painter Lee Krasner, had her own natural marker — another rock, but far more modest in size, dwarfed by her husband’s grave.
After paying respects to this couple from the art history books — years ago, when I worked at Meredith Long & Company, the gallery exhibited Krasner’s works so it was fitting to visit her final resting place — I took an ambling tour of Green River.
Scroll through the photo slideshow above this story to see more of the luminaries of 20th century art and letters whose home for eternity is this unprepossessing graveyard.
Read the controversy surrounding this quiet little cemetery, which the late great American painter Stuart Davis (another Green River resident), quipped “Everyone is dying to get in to.” And what the locals say here.
Encountering Green River was one of many highlights of my recent visit to East Hampton, made specifically to check out the Elaine de Kooning House.
The home’s owner Chris Byrne — best known as an independent curator and the co-founder of the Dallas Art Fair — was a generous and informed host and Sherpa, both as to the organic residency he has launched and the surrounding, often under-the-radar side of the Hamptons, particularly its storied history with visual artists — as exemplified by our afternoon at Green River.