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Franz Kline (American, 1910-1962)


Part of the second-generation of Abstract Expressionism, Franz Kline’s large gestural paintings became his legacy. More interested in translating animated subjects into quick, basic strokes, he focused less on figures and imagery and more on the movement of strokes. His works of art conveyed the emotion behind the act of painting, and he was inspired by a range of artists known for their handling of paint, such as Rembrandt and Manet. Often, he worked at night under harsh light, which brought out the play of contrast between black and white. He also created textural detail that left a record of the brush’s movements by using house-painting brushes. Architecture and industrial icons, such as bridges, tunnels, and railroads, are images that are hinted at in his paintings; one of his most impressive pieces, Chief, contains the underlying image of a locomotive. While he became best known for his works in black and white, Kline was not afraid to use colors. In Untitled, figures and objects became rapid marks and brush strokes with equal weight given to black as well as the rich, vibrant colors.

Kline was born in 1910. He developed an interest in drawing in high school; he went on to study art in England before moving to New York. He married British ballet dancer Elizabeth Vincent Parsons and taught at a number of schools. In 1962, Kline died of a rheumatic heart disease, leaving behind a name as an innovator in Abstract Expressionism.

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