Franz Kline & Joachim Probst
by Peter Hastings Falk
Franz Kline’s unique style of boldly slashing brushstrokes in black and white was revealed in his first solo exhibition in 1950, which was highly successful. As his fame grew, critics opined that his source of inspiration was Japanese calligraphy. Kline denied it. The more pervasive (and possibly apocryphal) story is that in 1948 or 1949 de Kooning showed Kline the stunning effect of using a projector to enlarge his small black drawings on the studio wall. But Kline always insisted that the source was his own unconscious. However, the recent discovery of a lengthy journal — titled Secret Writings — by Joachim Probst [1913–1980] reveals that his own black and white ink wash paintings were the catalyst for what became Kline’s mature style. Kline had met Probst shortly after he settled in New York in 1938. The two lived nearby in the West Village and became close friends. For example, some of the works in this auction are identified as being created at Quarry Hill, a large Vermont farm to which Kline and Probst traveled together. Kline’s appreciation of Probst for having served as a catalyst for his breakout style is perhaps the reason that Kline later titled one of his canvases Probst I (1960) now in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts Boston — which at nine feet tall is one of his largest.
Peter Hastings Falk's complete article will be published in the online art magazine, DiscoveriesInAmericanArt.com