PRINT Summer 1979

Franz Kline’s Color Abstractions: Remembering and Looking Afresh

FRANZ KLINE POSSESSED ONE of the two or three most acute painting intelligences that I have ever encountered, and he was also endowed with a superb sense of humor, an unusual pair of assets in any artist. One of his favorite self-mocking stories involved a remark of his mother’s around the time of his first show at the Egan Gallery. Kline had gone through 20 years of apprenticeship and struggle to arrive finally, and abruptly, at his classic black-and-white distillation: “Franz,” his mother said, “I’m ashamed of you, trying to do it the easy way.” He loved to tell this no-colors-no-problems story on himself; it lends an ironic edge to his feeling that “to be right is the most terrific personal state that nobody (else) is interested in.”

So now for the first time the Phillips Collection in Washington has brought together some 50 of Kline’s color abstractions, paintings in which, for his

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