Franz Kline Artist Biography
Franz Kline's work was highly distinctive; he was best known for large black and white paintings bearing abstract motifs set down with strident confidence. 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. Born in 1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Franz Kline went on 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, Franz Kline settled in New York in 1939. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, he worked figuratively, painting landscapes and cityscapes in addition to commissioned portraits and murals. His individual style can be first seen in the mural series Hot Jazz, which he painted for a New York bar in 1940. The series revealed his interest in breaking down representative forms into quick, rudimentary brushstrokes. In New York, 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. Many of the figures he depicted are based on the locomotives, stark landscapes, and large mechanical shapes of his native, coal-mining community in Pennsylvania.
It is widely believed that Franz Kline's most recognizable style derived from his friend, Willem de Kooning. Working with him, 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, he 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. He died in New York in 1962.