Collection 1940s–1970s

Franz Kline. Painting Number 2. 1954 453

Oil on canvas, 6' 8 1/2" x 8' 11" (204.3 x 271.8 cm). Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Hazen and Mr. and Mrs. Francis F. Rosenbaum Funds. © 2023 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Ann Temkin: Kline, like many of his fellow artists, enjoyed working in black and white. And of course, looking at this painting, you realize that white is actually not really a fair term for what it is, because there are many different colors in those creams and ivories on that surface. But it was a way to restrict what he was doing, all into the force of the gesture, the force of the zones created by the intersection of these blacks.

A lot of these paintings cultivate a spirit of spontaneity, of improvisation, almost as if he was making those marks as he went along, without knowing where he was going. Today, we know that he made drawings and small studies for most of these large-scale paintings.

It wasn't just about creating a new art. It was about creating a new world. It was about saying, we have to begin a civilization all over again, and we have to prove that human beings are capable of greatness, and not just of barbarian behavior.