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Franz Kline (1910-1962)
signed and dated 'FRANZ KLINE 61' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
37½ x 51½ in. (95.3 x 130.9 cm.)
Painted in 1961.
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
Private Collector, New York
Anon. sale; Christie's New York, 20 November 1996, lot 20
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., Franz Kline, March 1967, p. 29, no. 21 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Elizabeth V. Kline once described her husband as "a composite of contradictions," (quoted in D. Anfam, Franz Kline: Black and White (1950-1961), exh. cat., Houston, 1994, p. 15). In Bruho, Kline's superb handling of fluctuating textures of paint, together with his masterful manipulation of the dynamics of his composition work to create a bold painting at once taut and vibrant, austere and elegant, melodramatic and succinct. The suggestion of both speed and architectonic stability causes the viewer to stop in his or her tracks in order to take in dynamic fullness of the abstracted urban landscape. Browns, burgundies, grays and plums make a shy but dignified appearance, demonstrating Kline's fully mature style marked by a sophisticated complexity yet still retentive of his hallmark innate elegance and raw simplicity.
Bruho's diverse menu of textures and consistencies embodies Kline's comprehensive exploration of the possibilities of paint. Areas of dense impasto reach almost relief like stature before being teased out into splintered, hair-like edges. Matte washes of black speckled with sooty clots of brown oscillate with glossy streaks of paint of a shiny, almost lacquered finish. Additionally, globs of deep reds, thin layers of brown, and dabs of purple buried under the gritty black surface emerge sporadically.
Kline's site abstractions often recalled a specific geographic location. After his 1960 trip to Italy, Kline began giving his works Italian names, usually after the places he visited. Inspired by the open squares or piazzas, Kline painted a series of often highly structured paintings including works such as Ravenna (Yale University Art Gallery), Turin (The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art), and Palladio (Smithsonian Institution, Hirhhorn Museum and Sculptural Garden). While in Sienna, Kline attended the famous horse-race in the Piazza del Campo, when he decided to back a horse sponsored by the contrada ("district") named Bruco. Thus, as H. F. Gaugh suggests Bruho's title likely refers to Bruco, as Kline, "perhaps having heard someone with a strong lower-class Florentine accent turn Bruco into Bruho," (H.F Gaugh, Franz Kline, exh. cat., New York, 1985, p. 126). Thus, the sweeping horizontal black paint suggests the speed that might have impressed Kline at the horserace, while the plank-like splintered structure dotted with sooty spots of brown recalls the wooden beams and rafters of the dusty, muddy arena.

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