Franz Kline (American, 1910–1962) was a painter born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He first studied art at Boston University from 1931 to 1935, and then in London at the Heatherley School of Art from 1937 to 1938, where he concentrated on illustration and drawing. Kline began his career as a painter in New York after leaving London, depicting urban landscapes and other subjects with a naturalistic technique. Influenced by Willem de Kooning, he turned towards abstraction in his work at the end of the 1940s. He later became a member of the New York School, a group of Abstract Expressionists who formed a circle in the 1940s and 1950s, including amongst others artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko or Robert Motherwell. Though he experimented with color throughout his career, Kline is best known for his paintings executed in black-and-white tones, as well as for his spontaneous, gestural style.

While his paintings often seemed to be the outcome of an intuitive, intense moment, they were carefully planned, as his sketches display. In the late 1950s Kline sought to further develop his style; after experimenting with more complex forms and moving away from the clear-cut, black-and-white paintings he was known for, he produced a series of large works he called “wall paintings” at the beginning of the 1960s. He also reintroduced color into his work, which he had already done to a more subtle degree in the mid-1950s. When Kline died at the age of 51 in 1962, his search for a new artistic language was still somewhat undecided. He is regarded, however, as one of the most inventive members of the Abstract Expressionist group, and exerted a great influence on the second generation of gestural painters. Kline received widespread international recognition following his participation in shows such as the documenta II and III in 1959 and 1964 in Kassel, Germany, and in the Venice Bienniale in 1960. His work is held in many museum collections, including those at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and at the Tate Collection in London.

Timeline

1910
Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, PA
1926–1931
Attended Lehighton High School, PA
1931–1932
Studied under Frank Durkee, John Grosman, and Henry Hensche, Boston University, Boston, MA
1936–1938
Studied at Heatherley's School of Fine Art, London, UK
1939
Moved to New York, NY
1952
Taught at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, NC
1953–1954
Taught at Pratt Institute, New York, NY
1954
Taught at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, Philadelphia, PA
1960
Won the Italian Ministry of Public Instruction Prize, New York, NY
1962
Died: New York, NY

Exhibitions

2009
1945-1949, Repartir a zero, comme si la peinture n'avait jamais existe, Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, France
Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (nationally travelling)
Synchronies: Undercurrents in Postwar European and American Abstraction, Hackett Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2008
New York in the 1940s: Selections from the Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Franz Kline, L&M Arts, New York, NY (solo)
Watercolor, Bodycolor, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
Summer Selection, Edward Tyler Nahem, New York, NY
Action Painting, Foundation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland
Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Work by Abstract Expressionists, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT
2007
Arco 2007 Preview, Edward Tyler Nahem, New York, NY
Taste of Modern, Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC
Drawings, Watercolors and Gouaches: From Toulouse-Lautrec to Freud, Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York, NY
When Art Worlds Collide: The 1960s, Woodward Gallery, New York, NY
Pathways and Parallels: Roads to Abstract Expressionism, Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, NY
2006
Black, Black & White, Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York, NY
Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Plane/Figure, Winterthur Museum, DE
Modern and Contemporary Masters, Richard Gray Gallery, New York, NY
2005
Ecole de New York: Expressionisme Abstrait, Musee d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France
Vedo Blue, Galleria Edieuropa, Rome, Italy
American and European Selections, Richard Gray Gallery, New York, NY
Looking at Words, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NY
The Shape of Time, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
2004
Franz Kline: 1910-1962, Museo d'arte Contemporanea Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (solo)
From Pollock to Marden: Post-War Works on Paper, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO
Portraits, Esso Gallery and Books, New York, NY
Picasso to Thiebaud, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, CA
2003
Franz Kline: Paintings from a Private American Collection, Richard Gray Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Franz Kline, L&M Arts, New York, NY
Staff Selections: Permanent Collection, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
Black White, Danese, New York, NY
Aaron Siskind and others, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NY
A Way with Words, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
2002
Franz Kline: Ink Drawings, McKee Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
An American Legacy, A Gift to New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
All American, Part II, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York, NY
The New York School: Abstract Expressionism and Beyond, UMMA: The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI
The Physical World: An Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY
2001
All American, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York, NY
Da Kandisky a Pollock, Museo Cantonale d'Arte Lugano, Lugano, Italy
Cold War Modern: The Domesticated Avant-garde, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
Foundations: Building the Addison's Collection, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
2000
American Abstract Expressionsim, American Contemporary Art Gallery, Munich, Germany
Modernism & Abstraction: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME
Expresionismo Abstracto, Fundacion Juan March, Madrid, Spain
Highlights of Late 20th-Century Art from the Sydney and Frances Lewis Collection, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
1999
Panza: The Legacy of a Collector, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA
Drawn from Artists' Collections, The Drawing Center, New York, NY
Fruits & Flowers, Skies & Pies, Allan Stone Gallery, New York, NY
1998
Masterworks on Paper from the Collection of George Hopper Fitch, The de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
The New York School, Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY
1996
Hans Hofmann and the New York School, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CA
Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-1965, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
1994
Franz Kline: arte y estructura de la identidad, Fundacion Antoni Tapies, Barcelona, Spain (solo)
1988
Abstract Work from the 1950s, Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1986
The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
1985
The Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH (solo)
1977
Art USA, Fundacion Joan Miro, Barcelona
Art USA, Fundacion Juan March, Madrid, Spain
Binghamton/SUNY, Binghamton, NY (solo)
1975
David McKee Gallery, New York, NY
1972
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London
1968
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1967
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York, NY (solo)
1964
Paintings and Suclptures from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Weiner, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX
Documenta 3, Documenta, Kassel, Germany
Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England (solo)
1963
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1962
Gallery Lawrence, Paris, France (solo)
Dwan Gallery, New York, NY
Franz Kline Memorial Exhibition, Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C. (solo)
1961
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL (solo)
Collectors Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
New Arts Gallery, Atlanta, GA (solo)
Ten American Painters, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY
American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
1955–1961
The Whitney Museum of American Art Annuals and Biennials, New York, NY
1960
Venice Biennial Exhibition of Modern Art, Venice, Italy
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1959
Documenta 2, Documenta, Kassel, Germany
"The Romantic Agony: From Goya to de Kooning," Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX
1958
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
LaTartaruga, Rome, Italy (solo)
Gallena d'Arte del Navigho, Milan, Italy (solo)
1957
San Paulo Biennial, Sao Paulo, Brazil
1956
"Large Scale Paintings II," Contemporary Arts Museum Hosuton, Houston, TX
"Twelve Americans," Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1955
Twelve American Painters and Sculptors, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1954–1955
The New Decade, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
1954
10th Inter-American Conference, Caracas, Venezuela
Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Institute of Design, Chicago, IL (solo)
Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
1953
The Whitney Museum of American Art Annuals and Biennials, New York, NY
1952
Galerie de France, Paris, France
Margaret Brown Gallery, Boston, MA (solo)
The Whitney Museum of American Art Annuals and Biennials, New York, NY
1951
Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1950
Talent 150, Kootz Gallery, New York, NY
Charles Egan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1944
National Academy of Design Exhibition, New York, NY
1943
National Academy of Design Exhibition, New York, NY
1942
The National Academy's Annual Exhibition, New York, NY