Black Reflections

Franz Kline (American, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1910–1962 New York)

Oil and pasted paper on paper, mounted on Masonite
H. 19, W. 19-3/8 inches (48.3 x 49.2 cm.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Schneider, 1964
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    Kline arrived at Abstract Expressionism later than others, having continued working in a figural style redolent of American Scene painters into the late 1940s. By that time, he was ready to concentrate on formal concerns, and his friendship with Willem de Kooning helped pave the way. As a means to break free of figurative representation, Kline experimented with a Bell-Opticon enlarger (in de Kooning's studio) to project some of his small drawings in large scale, and he made a leap toward abstraction. By late 1950, he was exhibiting abstract work that immediately brought him success. Large-scale black and white compositions of energetic, dramatic gestures in which wide swaths of paint thrust across the canvas. For many, even these works of complete abstraction still evoke figural references (to various landscapes or urban scenes of industry, or to trees or other referents). Kline acknowledged this residue of imagery: "There are forms that are figurative to me, and if they develop into a figurative image … it's all right if they do. I don't have the feeling that something has to be completely non-associative as far as figure form is concerned."

    In 1956, Kline reintroduced color. Black Reflections, an intensely colored small work on paper, may in fact relate to an earlier black and white piece. Kline's work, so apparently spontaneous or impulsive in its emphasis on highly dramatic gestural brushstrokes, is, in fact, carefully considered. The sweeps and rapid brushings of both thick and diluted paint are the product of much meditation. He often drew inspiration for large compositions from small studies, and he also continued explorations of key elements in works even years after their creation. In this case, the central black shape is a mirror image of the shape in a black and white untitled painting of 1954.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signed and dated (lower left): Kline 59

  • Provenance

    Purchased directly from the artist by Mr. Schneider

  • Exhibition History

    New York: The Whitney Museum of American Art, 1960. Business buys American Art.....an exhibition by the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art, no. 56. (ill., lent by the Allison Manufacturing Co. [owned by Mr. Schneider])

    Atlanta: High Museum of Art, Jan.26-Apr.4, 1993; New York: MMA, May 4-Nov.7, 1993. ¦Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper¦, by Lisa Mintz Messinger. cat. #21, pp.55-64.
    New Jersey: Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, The State University at Rutgers, March 25-June 13, 1990. ¦Abstract Expressionism other dimensions¦. Pg. 47, cat. #54.

    Barcelona, Spain: Fundacio Antoni Tapies, March 18-June 5, 1994. London, England: Whitechapel Art Gallery, July 8-September 11, 1994. Saarbrucken, Germany: Saarland Museum, December 11, 1994-February 5, 1995. ¦Franz Kline: Art and the Structure of Identity¦. Fig. 46, Pg. 109 illus. in color.

    Barcelona, Madrid: Fundacio Joan Miro, Masters of Collage,
    November 24, 2005-February 26, 2006.

    Japan: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, March 11 - June 4, 1995. ¦Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper, Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art¦ Pg. 46 Fig. 21 illus. in color.

    Madrid, Spain: Fundacion Juan March, May 8 - July 2, 2000. ¦Jackson Pollock and American Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper, Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art¦.

    Rivoli (Torino), Italy: Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, October 18, 2004-January 30, 2005. Franz Kline Rotrospective. p.262-263,
    illus. in color.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History