Francis Valentine O’Connor, Ph.D. (1937-2017)
NEW YORK, NY, February 1, 2018 – The foremost scholar of Jackson Pollock and a pioneer in the study of the New Deal art projects died suddenly at his home in Manhattan on November 20.
Francis broke new scholarly ground with his 1965 doctoral dissertation on Pollock. That research resulted in his chronology for the catalog of MoMA’s 1967 Pollock retrospective, and his subsequent collaboration with Eugene V. Thaw on the compilation of the authoritative fourvolume Pollock catalogue raisonné, published by Yale in 1978, with a 1995 supplement by Francis alone. He was a distinguished member of the Pollock authentication board during Lee Krasner’s lifetime and after her death until it was dissolved, and was outspoken in his insistence on the importance of connoisseurship in the authentication process.
His work on Pollock led to his study of the New Deal federal art patronage programs, on which Pollock, Krasner, and many of their contemporaries worked throughout the Great Depression. He authored three books on the subject, as well as essays and exhibition catalogs on New Deal art. This stimulated further research into the history of mural art in America, which he published in 201 1 as a Web site-described by one reviewer as “the result of thirty years of passionate and meticulous study.”
Francis was also a poet, having originally majored in English at Manhattan College and creative writing at Johns Hopkins. A group of twelve of his sonnets on abstract expressionist painters was published in the Art Journal in 1988, and three of his poems were included in the 2000 anthology, Such Desperate Joy: Imagining Jackson Pollock.
The Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center is planning a memorial tribute to celebrate Francis’s legacy of scholarship, integrity, and creativity.