Franz Kline

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Franz Kline was a renowned and notable American artist, who is celebrated and ranked amongst the pioneer artists of the Abstract Expressionist Movement that was all the rage in the post-World War II period. His work has been showcased and exhibited at prestigious and influential museums in solo exhibitions all over the world, including the New American Painting Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Philips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Castello de Rivoli in Turin.

Franz Rowe Kline was born on May 23, 1910, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Kline began to show a natural talent and skill from a very early age and he was given the position of cartoonist for the High School newspaper. He attended the Boston University, and later, after attending the Art Students League he moved to London where he enrolled himself at the Heatherley School of Fine Arts. Upon completing his artistic education and training, in 1938, kline decided to settle down in New York, where he began working as a representational painter. He combined the styles of Cubism and social realism to create his own unique and distinctive blend.

During his early days in New York, kline struggled to garner fame and commercial success as his talent as figurative artist was appreciated by few except a few loyal patrons in New York, which guaranteed a meager income and a modest fame. In addition, he began painting landscapes and everyday scenes of the city along with painting barroom murals to put food on the table for himself and his wife.

In 1949, Franz Kline saw his black and white sketches magnified in a projector, and this is how his interests were piqued by the power and magnetism of huge, massive abstract canvases. During this time, he encountered Kooning and Pollock, who had a profound influence on his artistic perceptions and encouraged him to experiment with new and innovative styles. He began devoting his time to developing intensely personal compositions of Abstract Expressionism using just his arm, a brush and his mental imagery, and he quickly mastered this new style that was enhanced by his spontaneous and bold expression of emotions which can be seen in his masterpiece, ‘Nijinsky (Petrushka)’, produced in 1950.

In 1950, Kline showcased his work at his first solo exhibition in New York, which was an instant critical and commercial hit and garnered him immense fame and critical acclaim that served to firmly establish his name amongst the leading Abstract Expressionists. His work was applauded and praised for its likeness and inspiration taken from Oriental Calligraphy of the Japanese culture.

Kline was unconventional and nontraditional in his methods and approach, and he preferred the use of cheap, and affordable paints and huge, house painter brushes that he used to create intricate graphic webs of standardized and yet rough lines of black strokes on white canvases. In 1956, he produced the iconic and famous ‘Mahoning’, which is captivating and intensely powerful because it’s overwhelmingly large size.

Towards the last years of his life, he was forced to cut down his work because of his affliction with a heart disease that had caused a heart failure. Franz Kline passed away on 13th May, 1962, in New York City. Some of his most famous and praised works include ‘Chief’, ‘Painting’, ‘Painting Number 2’, ‘Untitled’, ‘Le Gros’, ‘Lehigh V Span’, and ‘White Forms’ among others.

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