Franz Kline Comes Home!

For Immediate Release
September 12, 2012
Media Contact:
Chris Potash
(610) 432-4333 ext. 125



                                              FRANZ KLINE COMES HOME
Art Museum brings rarely seen works of the popular artist back to area of his roots


Allentown, PA—The Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley is excited to bring the art of world-renowned abstract expressionist Franz Kline back to the area where he grew up with the special exhibition Franz Kline: Coal and Steel.  This exhibition, curated by Dr. Robert S. Mattison, the Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, assembles more than fifty works by the artist, many of which have rarely or never before been viewed by the public. The exhibition will hang in the Joseph and Rita Scheller Gallery from October 7, 2012, through January 13, 2013.



Franz Kline (1910-1962) was born in the coal-region city of Wilkes-Barre and as a boy moved to the small town of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, 30 miles north of the Lehigh Valley. Kline showed an early aptitude for art, amply illustrating his high school yearbook, and went on to refine his interest in illustration at Boston University.  He continued his studies in London, then moved to New York in the late 1930s.  Kline’s early work in drawing and caricature attuned him to the abstract essence of line. Under the influence of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell, Kline’s style developed from representational works to calligraphic compositions where forms became brushed marks.  The scenery of his childhood in Pennsylvania and the city landscape of New York greatly inspired his work.  Well known for his large-scale black and white paintings, Kline is categorized as an Abstract Expressionist.  Kline died in 1962 from a heart condition, at the age of fifty-two. 



Kline’s early representational works show the coal regions of his childhood. They depict speeding trains powered by anthracite, bridges, and raw industrial scenes. When Kline moved to New York City in 1938, his vision of the city was profoundly influenced by these early experiences. In New York he painted on the “edges” of the city, depicting empty squares, skeletal buildings, and the abandoned Third Avenue El.

The exhibit Coal and Steel and the accompanying exhibition catalogue by Dr. Mattison makes the case that around 1950, when Kline developed the large-scale black-and-white abstract paintings for which he became internationally famous, he was drawing on memories of the trestles, locomotives, and coal breakers of his youth. These forms symbolized for him the force of the modern industrial age and informed his contribution to the New York School of painting.

The connections between Kline’s early and later paintings, including Turin (1960), a large-format black-and-white work featured in the show, will be authoritatively presented in this important exhibition. The exhibition will feature an illustrated catalog, for sale in the Museum Store for $25.




Founded in 1934 by the teacher, painter and critic Walter Emerson Baum (1884–1956), the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley has become the premier institution of visual arts in the region, serving as an important cultural destination as well as a vital element in the economic revitalization of downtown Allentown. The Museum’s newly expanded 48,900 sq. ft. facility showcases a growing collection of nearly 17,000 works of art of international importance, allowing visitors to experience a broad spectrum of art representing diverse media, materials and techniques from an equally diverse range of countries and cultures. In 1974 the Museum received prestigious accreditation from the American Association of Museums and today remains one of just 299 art museums of the 15,000 museums nationwide accorded this status.  For more information, please visit



A Black & White Preview Party

October 6, 2012, 6-8 p.m.

Cool jazz.  Good food.  And scintillating artistic expression.  That’s what you are going to find at the Allentown Art Museum’s preview party on Saturday, October 6, as Museum members and the curious public get a sneak peak at the special exhibitions Franz Kline: Coal and Steel andWalker Evans & The American Social Landscape Photographers.  Guests to this black-and-white themed party will also see on display selected works from the Lerner Contemporary Glass Collection. Admission is free to Museum members, $15 to the general public.  Please call 610-432-4333 x129 to RSVP.


Franz Kline: Pennsylvania/New York.
A conversation between Irving Sandler, the preeminent authority on Abstract Expressionism, and Robert Mattison, guest curator.
Sunday, October 7, 1:00 p.m.

Very few people know Abstract Expressionism as critic and historian Irving Sandler does.In 1954 Sandler began taking copious notes of conversations with artists in their studios. In 1956 he became the director of the Tanager Gallery, and a reviewer for Art News. After teaching at NYU throughout the 1960s, Sandler earned a Ph.D. in Art History in 1976 and began teaching at SUNY Purchase. In 1972, he organized "Artist's Space," an exhibition space for young artists. Laurie Anderson, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, and Chuck Close are among those who got their start there. Sandler's approach to art criticism is grounded in personal friendships with artists whose work he reviewed. He has flourished as a relevant commentator and author for over five decades.Sandler continues to write and is Consulting Editor with The Brooklyn Rail. He is often a contributor on CBS’s Sunday Morning, and 60-Minutes.

Robert S. Mattisonis the Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College. He is the author of five books and has curated numerous exhibitions at the Allentown Art Museum, including Edward Weston, Andy Warhol, and Stephen Antonakos.

This interactive conversation will cover Franz Kline’s roots in Pennsylvania and his relationship to industrial history as well as his place in the context the in New York art scene, his role in the history of Abstract Expressionism, and the heritage of his art. The conversation will provide a format for comments and questions from the audience. Join us for Irving Sandler’s first visit to the Allentown Art Museum.  $5 members; $15 nonmembers. Call 610-432-4333, ext. 110 or to register.


Fall Family Festival: Full Steam Ahead!
Sunday, November 4, 12–4 p.m.

Join us at the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley for some first-class fun at our Full Steam Ahead! Fall Family Festival. Enjoy an afternoon of everything from trains to trails inspired by our special exhibition Franz Kline: Coal and Steel.  All ages are guaranteed to delight in art activities for the whole family as the National Canal Museum will be on board to provide some hands-on fun. Jim Thorpe musician Jay Smar will engage all passengers with traditional folk music and clog dancing that will get audiences up and moving. This is sure to be a trip to the Museum you won’t soon forget!

This program is part of Free Sundays at the museum. There will be no guided visits offered on Fall Festival day.


Gallery Talk

Wednesday, November 7, noon                
Franz Kline: Coal & Steel with Robert S. Mattison, Guest Curator

Guest curator and author of the exhibition catalogue Robert Mattison walks visitors through the Coal and Steel exhibition. This casual talk takes approximately forty-five minutes andis free with museum admission.


Robert Mattison: Franz Kline: The Coal and Steel Connection

Sunday, December 16, 1:00 p.m.

While Kline’s black-and-white abstractions, painted between 1950 and his death in 1962, have become hallmarks of modern art, scant attention has been paid to the artist’s Pennsylvania coal-country background. Dr. MattisonThis lecture, “Franz Kline: Coal and Steel,” will connect Kline’s mature Abstract Expressionist canvases to his earlier Pennsylvania landscapes and show that the later abstract works are rooted in the sociology, industry, and geology of the anthracite coal region. Dr. Mattisonwill discuss in depth Franz Kline’s roots in Pennsylvania and the influence of coal-mining and railroad imagery on his art. The conversation will provide a format for comments and questions from the audience.

Robert S. Mattison is the Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College. He is the author of five books and is the Guest Curator of the Franz Kline: Coal & Steel exhibit.  $5 members; $15 nonmembers. Call 610-432-4333, ext. 110 or to register.

For more information on events and programs surrounding Franz Kline: Coal and Steel, please visit


The Allentown Art Museum would like to thank the following sponsors ofFranz Kline: Coal and Steel.

Presenting Sponsorship: Julius & Katheryn Hommer Foundation
Major Sponsorship:  Dedalus Foundation, First Northern Bank and Trust, and The Leon C. and June W. Holt Endowment
Sustaining Sponsorship:  The Audrey and Bernard Berman Endowment Fund, PPL, J.B. & Kathleen Reilly Fund of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation
Supporting Sponsorship: Computer Management and Marketing Associates, Inc., ICON, Palmerton Area Historical Society, Senior Style, WDIY 88.1 FM, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio