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The inspirational work of Franz Kline

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline

The Inspirational work of Franz Kline

Franz Kline’s art was based on personal vision and inner thoughts, influenced by what he saw around him; the streets of New York and Jazz Music. Abstract painting and Jazz music without words suggests a profound correlation with the way people experience the city.  Each painting had its own rhythm. Line, colour and form were influenced by melody, harmony and rhythm like in the free jazz compositions of Miles Davis.  The paintings reflected the streets.  When looking at a Kline painting you have a unique sense that they go deeper and beyond the surface.


The first time I saw the inspirational work of Franz Kline was at the Abstract Expressionist exhibition in 2017 at the Royal Academy in London. Prior to that, I had only seen Kline’s work in reproductions in books.  I had always been intrigued and impressed by his paintings and when I saw his original work for the first time l was not disappointed. Kline’s work had a strong impact on me. It evoked the feeling and emotions that l have about the city.  It reminded me of the grandeur and the scale of the New York skyline.  Using line and form, his mainly black and white paintings, ask ‘Is this really what reality is about?’

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Painting Freedom – Albert Oehlen review

Early in Kline’s career, he visited Willem de Kooning’s studio.  At that time Kline was drawing and painting representational images.  De Kooning introduced Kline to a Bell-Opticon enlarger.  When Kline’s representational drawings were projected onto a canvas Kline saw a new way forward. The images inspired Kline to make an experimental leap into abstraction.


Throughout his career, Kline was reluctant to talk about his art.  Unfortunately, the lack of dialogue had an impact on his career.  With little confabulation about what he was working towards, collectors since his death, have focused on other Abstract Expressionist like, De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko.


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Franz Kline - Tate website

His painting process of white over black, over white in repetition using household paint is a sign that Kline saw his painting practice as different.  Household paints are clearly less expensive and less refined. But they enabled him to paint in his own, unique style using a mixture of high gloss and matt. However, at times it seemed like he was not striving for fine art, and not striving for the durability of his legacy.

In fact, Kline’s art showed other priorities.  It contained is a lot of intangible realness, which examined the grittiness and abrasiveness of the city.  There is a sense of the physical danger in the New York streets as law and order were fraying.


Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline

Franz Kline, Andrus, 1961, All rights remain with the artist

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Kline’s painting technique was able to capture visual intelligence as his captured forms competed with each other.  By the subtraction and the addition of new forms throughout his painting, he looks at the subtracted nature and essence in the city.  He envokes the stillness and movement, the noise and silence, the negative and positive, and the absence and presence. The result is a personal account and a romancing of the poetic qualities of the city that challenges the notion of beauty.  The limited palette hints that Kline may have a lack of knowledge about colour, but there are strong rumours that his commercial galleries only wanted more of the same.


Kline work evokes a tangible experience.  There is a joy of geometry from the colossal departure from nature.  The drawings that started as representational, distilled and reframed through a projector find a response to genuine psychological needs within the details. Through light and dark you are drawn to the shape of something impalpable.  The resulting sculptural forms painted with abstract values suggest a path to truth.  Kline appears to ask what the significance of each experience is?   His work is certainly subjective.


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What I have learnt from Alex Katz

When you look at somebody’s paintings, what are you supposed to think?  What is it you find yourself thinking about?  Do you often have an intense reaction?  Do you take a position?  Are you supposed to focus on the artist’s intention? What goes through your mind?

Ultimately, I started writing about my interest in art to make my paintings better and because I had a feeling of being separate.  Even though I love art, at times, I have looked at it, and I just didn’t get it.  I wanted to go deeper.  I wanted to write about why I enjoy painting and why I enjoy looking at paintings.

As an artist, I want to share with you what I have learnt.  Please subscribe to join the readers who get a weekly email in their inbox.  As you follow me on my journey as an artist, you will get to experience the world from an artist’s perspective.