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Franz Kline

American, 1910-1962


Franz Kline

Seated Figure (Study for Elizabeth), 1945

Ink on paper
6 3/4 x 5 3/8 in
17 x 14 cm


Franz Kline was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1910. Franz Kline began his career as a figure and landscape painter. Kline studied in the Art Department of Boston University from 1931 to 1935 and Heatherley School of Art in London from 1937 to 1938. He then settled in Greenwich Village of New York where he painted in realist style, the local scenery including street scenes and Bohemian night clubs. In 1945, Kline did his first abstract work, and in 1949 became committed to Abstract Expressionism when a friend put several of his small sketches into a projector, magnifying the bold linear strokes and making obvious his talent for that style. Much  of Kline's early abstraction was black and white with boldly geometric lines cut with asymmetry and opening edges. Later his lines became much thicker and his forms slab-like. Kline used wide brushes up to eight inches in width. Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning was especially encouraging to Franz Kline where both frequented the Cedar Bar. By 1950, Kline was producing large-scale Abstract Expressionist works with calligraphic images in black on white ground.Many of Kline’s works were done with wide house-painter brushes, heavily loaded with paint across large canvases. Kline taught briefly at Black Mountain College in 1952; Pratt Institute in 1953; and the Philadelphia Museum School in 1954. From the late 1950s until his death, Kline was also active in Provincetown, Massachusetts. His work is included in some of the world’s most important public collections including MoMA, Whitney, Metropolitan, Guggenheim, Smithsonian, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Carnegie Museum of Art.