Franz Kline

Through his signature style of broad gestures of black paint set against a white background, Kline became one of the leading figures of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Kline studied art at the Boston Art Students League and later at the Heatherley School in London. In 1939, he moved to New York and began painting cityscapes and landscapes of the Lehigh Valley region. During the 1940s, Kline won several awards at the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design. In 1949, a friend used a projector to enlarge some of Kline's small gestural studies, and soon afterwards Kline abandoned figurative painting to focus on his black and white linear abstractions. This work displays Kline's mature visual language translated from enamel housepaint to ink wash and reducing the scale of his work to a more intimate size. The spontaneity of ink wash helps bring out the relation of Kline's art to Japanese calligraphy and Zen painting. Kline's interest in Japanese art dates to the mid-1940s, a period that also saw the emergence of his friendships with fellow Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, as well as his exploration of existentialist philosophy. This combination of influences provided the stimulus for Kline's radical break from representational art.
Date of Birth
ca. 1953
Oil based black ink wash and collage on cream paper
13 7/8 x 18 3/4 in. irr. (35.2425 x 47.625 cm.)
Accession #
Credit Line
Gift of Gerrish H. Milliken, Jr.

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