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April 21, 2023

Acquisition: Franz Kline

Franz Kline, "Frederick Blumenstein"

Franz Kline
Frederick Blumenstein, c. 1940s
oil on canvas
image: 58.74 x 48.26 cm (23 1/8 x 19 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Rufus Zogbaum and Reina Schratter

Franz Kline (1910–1962) is a widely-acclaimed abstract expressionist painter whose distinctive, large-scale, gestural abstractions evolved from his earlier figurative style created during the 1940s. Rufus Zogbaum has given the National Gallery of Art 15 drawings and one painting by Kline. This gift continues the generosity of the family, begun in 1993 by Elizabeth Zogbaum, a close friend and long-time companion of the artist and executrix of his estate. Elizabeth and her son Rufus have added more than 100 Kline drawings to the National Gallery’s holdings, making the museum a critical repository for the study of this important artist.

During a period of creative frustration, Kline experienced a technical breakthrough in 1948, when Willem de Kooning suggested that he use an opaque projector to view his drawings at a large scale. This would inspire Kline’s mature, large black-and-white gestural paintings, often very closely based on the small brush-and-ink sketches made on scraps of paper or telephone-book pages. The ink drawings in this gift range from the mid-1940s through 1955 and show his transition from figuration to abstraction.

The painting, a portrait of Frederick Blumenstein, is closely related to a smaller pen and ink drawing of Blumenstein, also included in the gift. Taken together, the painting and its related drawing show Kline on the verge of maturity, working through cubism and interested in enlarging gestural drawings into paintings. The painting joins four early figurative Kline paintings from 1940 given by Dian Woodner in 2014, and two mature paintings given by Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine in 1971.

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