Hauser & Wirth Institute publishes Franz Kline's catalogue raisonné
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Hauser & Wirth Institute publishes Franz Kline's catalogue raisonné
Franz Kline's studio (at 242 West 14th Street), New York City, April 7, 1961
Photo by Fred W. McDarrah. © Getty Images.

NEW YORK, NY.- Hauser & Wirth Institute announced the publication of a new, digital catalogue raisonné, Franz Kline Paintings, 1950–1962, developed under the direction of Kline scholar Dr. Robert S. Mattison. This publication is now freely accessible online, allowing researchers and the public to view 256 paintings, many rarely seen or exhibited, which Kline (1910 - 1962) created during the final years of his life. This ambitious period in the artist’s career, characterized by dynamic black-and-white abstract paintings, has been under-documented, and the publication of this catalogue raisonné marks a new opportunity to open avenues into Kline scholarship and increase public knowledge of his work as well as his contributions to the history of art. 

“Kline is one of the essential figures of mid-century American art, however his work has not been studied on the level of his peers,” says catalogue raisonné director Dr. Robert S. Mattison, Marshall R. Metzger Professor of Art History at Lafayette College. “Until now, his reputation has been based on relatively few works that are seen recurrently. This catalogue raisonné is a chance to change that situation. I am delighted that it will be the most comprehensive catalog of a watershed moment in his career, a springboard for new research, and a contribution to scholarship on this era in mid-century art.”

“We’re thrilled to have produced such a meticulously-researched and welcoming catalogue raisonné,” says Hauser & Wirth Institute Executive Director Lisa Darms. “Kline’s work will undoubtedly disseminate to a much wider audience through this publication. Thanks to its digital format, it serves as a living document where adjustments and additions can be made as Kline research continues to develop.”

Franz Kline was born in 1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in the northeastern coal region of the state. His earliest, semi-realistic paintings depict scenes from his childhood surroundings, and his later, abstract, monochrome paintings also harken back to the coal country of his upbringing. In the early 1930s, Kline studied art at Boston University and illustration at the Heatherly School of Fine Art in London. He moved to Greenwich Village, New York City in 1939 where he lived and worked. During his early years in New York, Kline often sold his paintings in Washington Square Park or on the street, marking his deep identification with the urban environment but also making this period of his career difficult to track. 

Kline came to the forefront of the art world in the 1950s with his singular, abstract paintings that feature angular black brush strokes contending with the white paint that presses all around them. These works appear simultaneously megalithic and unstable, structured and explosive. Kline once commented, “To think of ways of disorganizing can be a form of organization, you know.” The seeming spontaneity of his paintings and association with action painters in the New York School bely the complex nature of his process, which often involved preliminary studies and subtle revisions in the paintings themselves. During his lifetime, Kline’s work was exhibited at major venues, including the Venice Biennale (1956, 1960); Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1959); São Paulo Biennial (1957); and Whitney Annuals and Biennials (1952, 1953, 1955, 1961). He taught art at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Despite his fame, relatively little documentation of Kline’s work was preserved during his lifetime, and he died just ten days before his 52nd birthday, in the prime of his career.

In developing this catalogue raisonné, Hauser & Wirth Institute provided funding to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution to catalog and digitize 11.5 linear feet of biographical material and papers compiled by Elisabeth Zogbaum (1912 - 2005), a close companion to Franz Kline and executrix of his estate after his death. The archival materials comprise Kline’s correspondence, exhibition files, photographs, artifacts, audio interviews, and books from his personal library. Hauser & Wirth Institute’s funding enables unrestricted online access to this archive through the Archives of American Art website. 

Franz Kline Paintings, 1950-1962 is published using the platform. 

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