"The final test of a painting, theirs, mine, any other, is: does the painter's emotion come across?"
FRANZ KLINE SYNOPSIS
American Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline is best known for large black and white paintings bearing abstract motifs set down with strident confidence. He started out as a realist with a fluent style that he perfected during an academic training that encouraged him to admire Old Masters such as. But after settling in New York and meeting , he began to evolve his signature abstract approach. By the end of his life he had achieved immense international recognition, and his unusual approach to gestural abstraction was beginning to influence the ideas of many .
FRANZ KLINE KEY IDEAS
MOST IMPORTANT ART
Painting No. 7 (1952)
Unlike his friends Pollock and de Kooning, Kline never experimented with figurative elements in his mature work. Painting No.7 is a fine example of his black and white pictures. The rigid geometry of broad black lines defines the composition, perhaps manifesting his reconsideration of the iconic paintings of squares by Kazimir Malevich.
Oil on canvas - The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
FRANZ KLINE BIOGRAPHY
Franz Kline was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining community that offered few opportunities for artistic development. His childhood was marred by a complicated relationship with his parents. His father, a saloon keeper, committed suicide in 1917, when Kline was only seven years old. His mother later remarried and sent her son to an institution for fatherless boys, which the artist referred to as "the orphanage."
Determined to make his own way, Kline worked as a cartoonist for his high school newspaper and managed to escape his small town to attend Boston University's School of Art, between 1931 and 1935. Boston offered him a wealth of opportunities: not only did his instructors help familiarize him with modern art, but he also learnt much from the city's private and public collections. After leaving, he studied briefly at thein New York. He then went to England where he enrolled in the Heatherly's School of Art in London. It was there that he met his future wife, Elizabeth V. Parsons, a former ballet dancer who was working as an artist's model at the school. She returned with Kline to New York in 1938 but would later suffer a mental breakdown and spend time in mental institutions.
The first few years back in New York proved difficult for Kline. He was forced to take odd jobs: he painted murals in bars and sold illustrations to magazines. At this point, his work was shaped by his love of Old Masters such as
Critics have long debated whether Kline's black and white paintings were inspired by Japanese calligraphy. The suggestion first surfaced in reviews of his breakthrough show of 1950. However, the artist denied it, claiming that his inspirations came from unconscious sources. When asked to explain the meaning of his work, he refused, saying that he wanted the viewers to feel the effects of the composition unhindered by suggestion. Instead, he emphasized the non-symbolic character of the work, and what he called "painting experience." He was supported in this by critics such as , who focused on the importance of abstract form in art, and sidelined discussions of sources or content. Kline also put a distance between himself and contemporaries such as and , whose art expressed an urge to transcendence. And, although his gestural approach might seem to place him close to de Kooning, Kline was less interested in wild expression than in the isolated gesture itself.
Late Period and Death
By 1955 Kline was experimenting with color once again - using planes painted in different hues to evoke a more complex sense of space. His style also became looser, and by the early 1960s, in works such as Red Painting (1961), some of his pictures were almost monochromatic. By this stage, Kline's reputation was secure as a leading. He was exhibiting continuously both in the U.S.A. and abroad, and was selected to show at the Venice Biennale in 1960, along with , and . In 1961, his works were also included in "American Vanguard", an exhibition organized by the United States Information Agency, and which toured countries throughout Europe. Such exhibitions have since come to be seen as an important facet of the American government's efforts to advance itself as a guardian of free expression in the midst of the Cold War. He died unexpectedly of heart failure on May 13, 1962, aged only fifty-two.
FRANZ KLINE LEGACY
Although Kline's death received much attention in the press, his fame declined in subsequent years and his work was not seriously revisited until the art market boom of the late 1980s. However, a new generation of
FRANZ KLINE QUOTES
"If you're a painter, you're not alone. There's no way to be alone."
"The nature of anguish is translated into different forms."
"You instinctively like what you can't do."
"It's a wonderful thing to be in love with The Square."
"You paint the way you have to in order to give. That's life itself, and someone will look and say it is the product of knowing, but it has nothing to do with knowing, it has to do with giving."
"I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important."
Franz Kline Influences
Interactive chart with Franz Kline's main influencers, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
Franz Kline BOOKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
By Harry F. Gaugh
An Emotional Memoir of Franz Kline
By Fielding Dawson
Franz Kline (1910-1962)
By David Anfam
By Frank O'Hara
Monograph and Comprehensive Catalogue Initiative
Energy in Black and White
By Robert Hughes
The Man Who Painted IMPACT
By Robert Hughes
Franz Kline at L&M Arts Gallery
By Joan Waltemath