Franz Kline

Born 1910. Died 1962.
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Franz Kline Biography

Franz Kline, regarded as one of the most important and inventive Abstract Expressionists of the New York School, is best known for his large-scale black-and-white gestural paintings. Often cited as a quintessential action painter, Kline was unique among his contemporaries in a number of ways. His strident brushwork imparts a sense of immediacy that belies the calculated nature of his creative process; in fact, he made extensive compositional studies for his paintings. And unlike his contemporaries, Kline was reluctant to attribute hidden meaning to his work, prefiguring the Minimalist movement and inspiring sculptors like Donald Judd and Richard Serra.

Kline was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1910. He studied art at Boston University and the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London. Trained in traditional techniques of painting, illustration and drafting, Kline settled in New York where he produced cityscapes, portraits and interior scenes. It was there that he met Willem de Kooning, who introduced him to abstraction. Kline began to develop his distinctive style of intense tonal contrast and thickly layered paint, using a house painting brush to create aggressive black lines on canvas. Kline exhibited his signature black and white paintings at his first solo show in 1950 at the Egan Gallery. Throughout the 1950s and early ‘60s, his work was included in numerous exhibitions including The New American Painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the late ‘50s, Kline began a series of monumental “wall paintings”; around this time he also began reintroducing color into his work. In 1962, at the age of 51, Kline died of rheumatic heart failure.

Kline’s work resides in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; and the Tate Modern, London.

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