“I don’t decide in advance that I’m going to paint a definite experience, but in the act of painting, it becomes a genuine experience for me…” Franz Kline.
Franz Kline was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and went to study at the Boston Art Students’ League from 1931 to 1935 and at the Heatherly School of Fine Arts in London from 1936 to 1938. Returning to the United States, Kline settled in New York in 1939. There he met Willem de Kooning who introduced him to many of the key practitioners of the American avant-garde including Pollock, Guston and Tomlin.
Having begun with figurative work, the influence of the artists in New York caused Kline to turn to painting in a radically abstract style by the end of the Forties. Working with de Kooning, he took details from his own original sketches, blew them up then applied dramatic brushstrokes across the images. Works such as ‘Wotan’ (1950) and ‘Le Gros’ (1961) show his unique approach to abstraction particularly well. To achieve these effects he used large industrial size paint brushes. In 1950 Kline had his first one-man exhibition at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York. His paintings were a huge success and he continued to work most often with monochromes. Colour returned to his work in 1957 but by 1961 he had given up painting, feeling his experiments with colour had failed.
Kline’s work was highly distinctive. He managed to create dramatic images through the contrast of hollow and solid spaces and with his vigorous brushstrokes. He is one of the most unique of the Abstract Expressionists.