Kline was married to a ballet dancer, Elizabeth Parsons, who, like the famous Russian dancer Nijinsky, suffered from schizophrenia. Kline made several portraits of Nijinsky during his early years, when he worked as a commercial illustrator. This work, however, does not depict the dancer. It is one of the first in Kline’s mature style, developed over the winter of 1949–50. During a visit to de Kooning’s studio, Kline saw one of his own sketches enlarged with an overhead projector. For the first time he saw that his calligraphic studies, which were made on the pages of a telephone book, worked well as large pictures. This canvas was included in Kline’s first one-man show at Charles Egan’s gallery. The titles were created, more or less arbitrarily, by a committee composed of Egan, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, and Kline. The zig-zag line at bottom left may have reminded Kline of the ruff that Nijinsky wore in an earlier portrait of him as Petrouchka.
[Charles Egan Gallery, New York, 1950–52; sold in May 1952 to Steinberg]; Muriel Kallis Steinberg, Chicago (1952–2006; her gift to MMA)
New York. Charles Egan Gallery. "Franz Kline," October 16-November 4, 1950.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "An American Choice: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection," May 21–September 27, 1981, unnumbered cat. (p. 65).
Houston. Menil Collection. "Franz Kline: Black and White, 1950-1961," September 8-November 27, 1994, no. 1.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Franz Kline: Black and White, 1950-1961," December 16, 1994–March 5, 1995, no. 1.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. "Franz Kline: Black and White, 1950-1961," March 25-June 4, 1995, no. 1.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 17, 2007–February 3, 2008, extended to March 2, 2008, no. 28.
Sabro Hasegawa. "The Beauty of Black and White." Bokubi 12, no. 4 (1951), p. 37, ill. p. 34.
Elaine de Kooning. "Two Americans in Action: Franz Kline, Mark Rothko." Art News Annual 27 (1958), p. 91, ill.
Lawrence Alloway. "Sign and Surface (Notes on Black and White Painting in New York)." Quadrum 9 (1960), p. 54.
Elaine de Kooning. "Franz Kline: Painter of His Own Life." Art News 61 (November 1962), ill. p. 30.
Allen Weller. Art USA Now. Ed. Lee Nordness. New York, 1962, vol. 1, p. 192.
Eleanor Page. "She Lives in an Art Museum." Chicago Tribune (September 13, 1964), sec. 5, p. 3.
Barbara Rose. American Art Since 1900: A Critical History. New York, 1967, p. 174, ill. no. 7-15.
Harry F. Gaugh. "The Art of Franz Kline, 1930-1950: Figurative to Mature Abstraction." PhD diss., Indiana University, 1972, p. 235, fig. vi, 17.
Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the Twentieth Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, p. 222, fig. 401.
Barbara Rose. American Art Since 1900. Rev. and expanded ed., (1st ed., 1967). New York, 1975, p. 174, fig. 7–14.
H. H. Arnason. History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Rev. and enl. ed. New York, 1977, p. 527, fig. 903.
Alice Hess. "Great Private Collections: A Chicago Visionary." Saturday Review 7 (October 1980), p. 72, 74, ill. pp. 3, 73.
Grace Glueck. "Met Is Given a $12 Million Art Collection." New York Times (December 10, 1980), p. B7.
"Chicagoan Gives Art to N. Y. Museum." Chicago Sun-Times (December 11, 1980), p. 8.
Hilton Kramer. "Modernist Show Moves Met Firmly into Art of 20th Century." New York Times (May 22, 1981), pp. C1, C21, ill.
Grace Glueck. "Is Chicago Losing Out in the Art War?" New York Times (August 2, 1981), sec. 2, p. 1.
Dale Edward Fern. God Nijinsky: A Realization for the Theatre Created for "The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky" in Performance. New York, 1981, ill. on dust jacket.
Harry F. Gaugh. The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline. Exh. cat., Cincinnati Art Museum. New York, 1985, pp. 70–71, 73, 82, 87, 96, 157.
Eugene Victor Thaw. "The Abstract Expressionists." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Winter 1986–87), pp. 39, 47, fig. 31 (color).
April Kingsley. The Turning Point: The Abstract Expressionists and the Transformation of American Art. New York, 1992, pp. 264, 277–79, 366, ill. (color) and cover (color).
Mario Naves. "Graphic Artist." New Criterion 13, no. 6 (February 1995), p. 44.
Paul Brach. "Urban Grit." Art in America (April 1995), p. 97, ill. p. 98.
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, ed. Franz Kline, 1910–1962. Exh. cat., Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea. Milan, 2004, p. 307, ill.
Nan Rosenthal in "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2005–2006." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 64 (Fall 2006), p. 61, ill. (color).
Pepe Karmel inAbstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Gary Tinterow, Lisa Mintz Messinger, and Nan Rosenthal. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 104–7, no. 33, ill. (color).