Study for Elizabeth, 1945
Ink and wash on paper laid down to paperboard
6 3/4 x 5 5/16 in.
Franz Kline was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Kline became one of the most prominent 20th-century American artists working in abstract and non-objective styles. Franz Kline is iconic and his linear abstractions brought him his first notable public attention in 1950 when they were shown in New York City. 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. Some of these in 1940 included Bleeker Street murals of jazz musicians but were not focused on social conditions but on American scenes, which was the prevalent style of that time.
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. In the 1940s, Kline often used a "Bell-Opticon” enlarger to project forms on a wall. 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. He 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. From 1958, his gestural paintings had bold coloration. Many of Kline’s works were done with wide house-painter brushes, heavily loaded with paint across large canvases.
Franz 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. He died in New York City in 1962. Kline’s work has sold excess of 40 million dollars for a single painting, and is included in some of the world’s most important public collections including MoMA, Whitney, Metropolitan, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Smithsonian and the Guggenheim.