156
156
Franz Kline
UNTITLED
Estimate
100,000150,000
JUMP TO LOT
156
Franz Kline
UNTITLED
Estimate
100,000150,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London

Franz Kline
1910 - 1962
UNTITLED
oil and collage on board
53.8 by 39.6 cm. 21 1/8 by 15 1/2 in.
Executed in 1957.
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Provenance

Estate of the Artist
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
Sidney Singer, Mamaroneck
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
Private Collection
Christie's, New York, 16 May 2001, Lot 58
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

As the semi-representational imagery of his earlier career was relinquished and Franz Kline liberated line from likeness, the forthright black geometry of his visual lexicon gained a strength and presence as individual and impactful as Pollock’s drip, Newman’s zip, and Rothko’s stacks of ethereal hues. It was with unparalleled gestural velocity and structural elegance that Kline executed a singular oeuvre of supremely powerful canvases rendered in the stark yet eloquent polarity of his often monochromatic palette. Indeed, in Untitled bold vertical and horizontal black lines dynamically dart and bisect the candy coloured ground, hues that owe much to the palette of the artist’s friend and mentor Willem de Kooning. Executed during a pivotal moment in the artist’s career Untitled is utterly paradigmatic of the artist’s iconic lexicon.

The late 1950s were an incredibly prolific and prodigious moment for Kline. In 1955, the Whitney Museum of American Art selected him for its landmark exhibition The New Decade right before he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s iconic 12 Americans exhibition and again in the year following the realisation of the present work Kline played a prominent role in the highly influential show New American Painting. The latter was a ground-breaking travelling exhibition in which MoMA brought Kline’s works alongside other titans of American Abstraction such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, to the most acclaimed European museums. Untitled is thus from a seminal moment in the artist’s career, when he was immortalised as one of the figurehead of Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting.

Trained as a realist painter, Kline would only begin his now iconic purely abstract creations — which are immediately recognisable for their uncompromising beams of black paint that are reminiscent of industrial and urban structures; in the early 1950s. This move towards existential abstraction would be the central artistic decision that rendered possible that iconic final decade of Kline’s oeuvre. The predominant gestural element of the present work, the jet-black stroke that so dynamically carves its way across the canvas, is an element that is wholly characteristic of his idiom.  

It was only just before the creation of Untitled that Kline began to eschew his purely black and white compositions; employing colour as a tool to enrichen his monochromatic palette posed a challenge to Kline: “I'm always trying to bring colour into my paintings, but it keeps slipping away and so here I am with another black show” (Franz Kline cited in: Exh. Cat., Cincinnati, Cincinnati Art Museum, Franz Kline: The Vital Gesture, 1985, p. 132). Untitled is thus a sublime and daring creation not only from the artist's most decisive years but it is also an early result of his choice to finally employ a coloured palette with which the present work reveals artistic synergies between Kline and his close friend Willem de Kooning.  

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London