Franz Kline is viewed as the master of black and white Abstract Expressionist painting, using the two colors as counterpoints in composition of gestural velocity. The reduction of the palette to black and white was a renunciation common to many artists in Europe and America in the 1940s and 1950s, including Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. Bold colors, as Piet Mondrian's paintings had shown, had specific spatial implications when painted in relation to one another. This was antithetical to the notion of the 'all-over' field, the crucial development of Abstract Expressionist painting, in which form and space--and therefore meaning--were in a constant state of flux. However, unlike de Kooning, whose reduction of color led to an exploration of form through line, Kline's strokes were more aggressive, open and monumental, seeking to define space and movement.
'After his 1960 trip to Italy, Kline began giving his abstractions Italian names, most of which refer, sometimes obliquely, to places he visited' (Gaugh, p. 125). Paintings from this series include the following works: Ravenna (Yale University Art Gallery), Turin (The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art), and Palladio (Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden).
Bruho's title refers to Bruco, the name of a contrada--or district--in Siena which sponsors a horse for the race in the city's Piazza del Campo every summer. As Harry Gaugh explained, 'Perhaps having heard someone with a strong lower-class Florentine accent [Kline] turned Bruco into Bruho' (Gaugh, p. 126). The painting's bold, black strokes were applied with a housepainter's brush. They sweep horizontally across the white ground, creating a sense of speed and movement reminiscent of the horses Kline would have seen at the Piazza del Campo.