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Franz Kline was born on May 23, 1910, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Art Students League in New York from 1931 to 1935 and at the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London from 1935 to 1938. On his return to the United States in 1939, he settled in New York.
During the 1930s and early 1940s, Kline’s work was representational. He translated animated subjects into simple gestures or strokes and recalled the stark industrial landscape of his native Pennsylvania. He also made murals and painted portraits. He was supported financially at this time by two friends, Theodore J. Edlich, Jr. and I. David Orr, who commissioned portraits from him and bought much of his work. In 1943 Kline met Willem de Kooning, and a few years later he met Jackson Pollock. He became interested in Japanese art around this time.
By the end of the 1940s, Kline had developed his mature abstract style, characterized by bold strokes and the use of black and white enamel. His first solo show was held at the Egan Gallery in New York in 1950, the critical reception of which established him as one of the leading figures of Abstract Expressionism. Beginning in the mid-1950s, he also began to paint in color. In the last decade of his life Kline participated in numerous important international exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1960 and the São Paulo Bienal in 1957. He died on May 13, 1962, in New York.