Kline painted "Gray Abstraction" during a year of artistic struggle. Beginning in mid-1948, he turned away from his early representational style, seen in works such as "Still Life - Fruit" of 1946 [1985.937], and began to explore a more radical avant-garde mode of artistic expression. This...
Kline painted "Gray Abstraction" during a year of artistic struggle. Beginning in mid-1948, he turned away from his early representational style, seen in works such as "Still Life - Fruit" of 1946 [1985.937], and began to explore a more radical avant-garde mode of artistic expression. This shift may have been motivated in part by his friendships with artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock [1971.638] and Hans Hofmann [1973.171], who were then working at the vanguard of the New York school of abstract expressionism. Kline's search for a new artistic style led him to create a series of richly painted non-figurative works, including "Gray Abstraction," in 1948 and 1949. "Gray Abstraction" shows evidence of Kline's vigorous engagement with his materials. The artist splashed and dripped paint across the surface with abandon, leaving the beaverboard support exposed in a number of places. Many of the white brushstrokes appear to have been made with a very broad brush of the type commonly used to apply house paint. The black brushstrokes are more calligraphic, suggesting pictograms or other stylized forms. Kline has also gouged into the painting's surface repeatedly, especially in the central portion of the canvas. The forceful marks that populate the surface of "Gray Abstraction" record the artist's strong, even aggressive feelings. Emotion was central to Kline's painting process. He worked intuitively and through free association, resisting an analytical approach to painting. Kline described the necessity of his working method in 1957, stating "the emotion must be there. If I feel a painting I'm working on doesn't have imagery or emotion, I paint it out and work over until it does." (Conversations with Artists, Devin-Adair, New York, 1957, p. 110) Kline's 1948-49 abstractions form an important link between his early works and the later large-scale black and white abstract canvasses -- such as "Probst I" of 1960 [1973.636] -- for which he became best known. Only a handful of these transitional paintings have survived, as Kline subsequently painted over many of them with black-and-white paintings. Heather Hole
Reverse: FRANZ KLINE/49
The artist; to William H. Lane (1914-1995), 1953; to MFA, 1990, gift of William H. and Saundra B. Lane and museum purchase.
Gift of William H. and Saundra B. Lane and Museum purchase
© 2011 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York