10 Things You Didn’t Know About Franz Kline

Franz Kline is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the Abstract Expressionist movement. His bold and powerful black and white paintings have left a lasting impact on the art world. While many may be familiar with his iconic brushstroke style, there are several intriguing facts about Kline that are lesser-known. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Franz Kline:

1. Early Career In Illustration

Prior to gaining recognition as an abstract painter, Kline worked as a commercial illustrator. He honed his skills in art through creating illustrations for magazines and comic books. This experience greatly influenced his later work as an artist, as it allowed him to develop a strong sense of composition and dynamic movement.

2. Non-Objective Paintings

Although Kline’s signature style is often associated with abstraction, he considered his paintings to be non-objective, rather than non-representational. Kline did not believe that his artwork was completely devoid of subject matter, but rather wanted his viewers to have a subjective experience when interpreting his bold, gestural brushstrokes.

3. Influence of Jazz Music

Kline found inspiration in jazz music and often listened to it while painting. The energy and improvisational nature of jazz greatly influenced his artistic process. Kline believed that music held a unique ability to communicate emotions and wanted his paintings to evoke similar feelings in viewers.

4. The Role of Calligraphy

One of the defining characteristics of Kline’s work is the calligraphic quality of his brushstrokes. He drew inspiration from Eastern calligraphy, particularly Chinese characters and Japanese kanji. Kline admired the economy of brushwork found in calligraphy and sought to capture a similar sense of energy and fluidity in his own paintings.

5. Works in Series

Kline often created paintings in series, exploring variations of a particular theme or motif. One of his most famous series is the “Franz Kline: Black & White” series, in which he exclusively used black and white colors. These series allowed Kline to delve deeper into the expressive possibilities of his brushstrokes, ultimately pushing the boundaries of his own artistic style.

6. Influence on Pop Art

Kline’s bold and graphic style had a significant impact on the Pop Art movement of the 1960s. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol drew inspiration from Kline’s use of strong black lines and simplified forms. His influence can be seen in the bold, graphic elements of their work.

7. Dedication to Process

Kline was known for his rigorous commitment to his artistic process. He would spend extensive time preparing his canvases and experimenting with different techniques before applying his brushstrokes. Kline believed that this preparation was crucial in order to achieve the spontaneous and expressive quality he desired.

8. Friendship with Willem de Kooning

Kline shared a close friendship with fellow Abstract Expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. They often exchanged ideas and critiqued each other’s work. While their styles were distinct, they shared a mutual respect and admiration for each other’s artistic vision.

9. Recognition in Europe First

Kline’s work gained recognition in Europe before receiving significant acclaim in the United States. In the late 1950s, Kline exhibited his paintings in Paris and Zurich, where he was praised for his innovative approach to abstraction. This international recognition helped solidify his reputation as a leading figure in the art world.

10. Legacy and Influence

Franz Kline’s artistic legacy continues to inspire artists and captivate viewers to this day. His powerful brushstrokes and distinctive black and white compositions have left an indelible mark on the world of abstract art. Kline’s work can be seen in major museums and galleries around the world, and his influence can still be felt in the work of contemporary artists.

Useful Links:

Guggenheim Museum – Franz Kline Collection

The Art Story – Franz Kline