Franz Kline's LEHIGHTON

Although Franz Kline (American, 1910–62) achieved fame for the innovative abstract paintings he started showing in New York City in the 1950s, his youth in Pennsylvania—and his Pennsylvania landscapes like the large mural Lehighton—are just as important for understanding his art. In 1945, American Legion Post 314 in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, commissioned Kline to paint a mural above the bar of their building’s new addition. Kline painted his version of his hometown on a single piece of canvas measuring a little more than 6 feet high by almost 14 feet wide, depicting many familiar sights from his youth, such as the local fairgrounds, airport, steam engines, and trestle bridges.

In the fall of 2016 the Allentown Art Museum, located just twenty-five miles south of Lehighton, arranged with the Legion to safely remove the mural from the plaster wall, where it was affixed with glue for seven decades. An initial phase of restoration, including the repair of a rip in the bottom center of the canvas, took place in November 2016 in the Museum's Creativity Lab in Allentown, a space provided by City Center Lehigh Valley. The final phase of restoration—the mounting of the canvas on a stretcher, the cleaning of the face of the mural, and some inpainting—was completed on January 28, 2017, and the mural was unveiled to the public on Sunday, January 29. It will remain on permanent display in the Trexler Gallery.

For the full story of the mural click here.

In conjunction with the mural restoration, the Allentown Art Museum produced a series of videos as part of an oral-history project exploring the mural and the influence Lehighton and the surrounding towns and landscapes had on Kline and his art. These videos were supported by the Museum's HeARThstone Project. HeARThstone is rooted in the belief that art can, and does, change lives; and that in collaboration with their communities, art museums can be significant partners in the creation of safe neighborhoods. The HeARThstone Project is supported by the generosity of the Harry C. Trexler Trust.


Franz Kline (American, 1910–62), Lehighton (detail), 1945, oil on canvas. Purchase: Leigh Schadt and Edwin Schadt Art Museum Trust Fund, 2016 © The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Steve Gamler