Franz Kline

Meryon

1960–1

On display at Tate Liverpool

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2359 x 1956 mm
frame: 2404 x 2000 x 47 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1967
Reference
T00926

Display caption

Kline began as a figurative painter, but by 1950 was making vigorous, large-scale abstract paintings in black and white. His sense of space and insistence on flatness were particularly influenced by Japanese art and many of his works have a calligraphic feel. The bold directional marks in this painting also have a strong architectural sense, and it has been suggested that the work relates to an engraving of a clock tower by the nineteenth-century French artist Charles Meryon. Despite the spontaneous feel of his work, Kline often made small preparatory sketches before executing the larger paintings.

Gallery label, July 2008

Catalogue entry

Franz Kline 1910-1962

T00926 Meryon 1960-1

Inscribed 'FRANZ KLINE | 60' on back of canvas and 'MERYON' on stretcher
Oil on canvas, 92 7/8 x 77 (236 x 195.5)
Purchased from the Estate of Franz Kline through the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1967
Exh: New Paintings by Franz Kline, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, December 1961 (10, repr.), dated 1961; Painting and Sculpture of a Decade 1954-64, Tate Gallery, April-June 1964 (149, repr.) as 'Meryon ZP 19' 1961; on loan to the Tate Gallery from 1964 until acquired
Repr: Ronald Alley, Recent American Art (London 1969), pl.8; The Tate Gallery (London 1969), p.181

Though dated on the reverse 1960, this picture was first exhibited in December 1961 with the date 1961. It was probably painted mainly in 1960 and finished or reworked in 1961. The artist's executrix, Mrs Elisabeth R. Zogbaum, has suggested that the title may be a place name, though without any direct bearing on the picture, but there seems to be no place called Meryon in the USA. (Confusion with Merion, Pennsylvania, seems unlikely).

Harry F. Gaugh writes of this (8 November 1969): 'My own feeling is that "Meryon" refers to the 19th century French printmaker, Charles Meryon. Kline's reason for entitling his painting "Meryon" might have been the artist's way of acknowledging appreciation for some of Meryon's prints. I also see a formal similarity between Kline's "Meryon" and a couple of Charles Meryon s engravings. I am investigating this matter further, and plan to include my ideas about it in an article on Kline in England.

'About the date of the painting. I would agree that it was probably begun at the end of 1960 and finished in 1961. I base my opinion on the date on the back of the canvas, on the fact that the painting was included in Kline's exhibition at Janis Gallery from December 4th through December 30, 1961 ("Meryon" is reproduced as no.10 in the catalogue for that show), and on the evidence provided by a photograph which I traced from the Janis files, showing "Meryon" in an unfinished state. Kline may have decided to rework the painting after finding it unsatisfactory for exhibition in an earlier Janis show, i.e. one in 1960.'

There is an inscription 'ZP 20' on the back of the canvas which was added after the artist's death in the course of an inventory of his paintings, the Z referring to Mrs. Zogbaum; thus it simply means 'Zogbaum painting 20'. When exhibited in 1964, the picture was entitled incorrectly 'Meryon ZP 19'.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.390-1, reproduced p.390