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Franz Kline (1910-1962)
Study for Shaft
signed and dated 'KLINE 55' (lower left)
ink, gouache and oil on paper
14 5/8 x 11 in. (37.1 x 27.9 cm.)
Executed in 1955.
Esther Stuttman, New York
Seth Seigelaub, New York
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
Victor Metoyer Jr., New York
Michael Legutko, New York
Peter Hans Schawerner, Vienna, Krakow and Berlin
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1992
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

Lot Essay

In Franz Kline’s Study for Shaft, bold and gestural brushstrokes race across the subdued white field before quietly settling into a composition that exudes both power and grace. Confident and arresting, these midnight black strokes are the result of the artist’s dynamic painterly style as he guides his loaded brush across his chosen support. Kline’s fierce ebony strokes punching through the picture plane illustrate the purist form of Abstract Expressionism. In Harold Rosenberg’s text American Abstract Painters, the critic famously wrote, “What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” This work, with its active and liberated form, epitomizes this fiercely American aesthetic that a generation of artists, including Kline, embraced to define their age.

Like the meditative tradition of Japanese calligraphers, Kline paid much heed to the placement and force of his hand for an effect that appears at once improvisational yet deliberate. And, like the black and white paintings of Kazimir Malevich and, later, Ad Reinhardt, Study for Shaft explores the interaction between black and white. But ultimately, as a work of its time, Study for Shaft conveys freedom: its abstract form and dynamic composition sing “liberty and justice for all” just as the Cold War was brewing halfway across the globe. Perhaps a political tool as well as an aesthetic one, Study for Shaft exemplifies abstract expressionism—a genre of art that, in 1954, Kline helped to define.

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