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Untitled

ca. 1959 Franz Kline Born: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1910 Died: New York, New York 1962 oil on paper 24 x 19 in. (61.0 x 48.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1971.259 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

In the mid 1950s, having worked in black and white for more than five years, Kline reintroduced color. The short, choppy strokes and disharmonious swaths of yellow and red in Untitled make for a restless composition. The black shape, a central element in many of Kline’s paintings, resembles a form he used repeatedly in drawings of his wife Elizabeth, who was hospitalized for depression and schizophrenia for more than a decade. Asked at the time why he had portrayed her head as an empty square, he replied, “She isn’t there anymore.” Squares occur often in Kline’s work, and it is tempting to link the charged energy of the black form in Untitled with his long-standing, if rarely voiced, distress over Elizabeth’s continued illness.

Modern Masters: Midcentury Abstraction from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2008

Keywords

Abstract

painting

paint - oil

paper