A brief formal analysis of Franz Kline’s ‘Siegfried’

Franz Kline’s “Siegfried” feels as though it is an unclean painting; disorganized, unfocused even, though at its center a deliberate aura of chaos. There is a suffocation of color, with black brush strokes occupying most of the canvas and white just barely shining through, at times mixing with the dense black to produce a muted grey. The grey takes up a minimal amount of space, but at the same time is essential to seeing this color binary in a more three dimensional light. The shades of grey seemed to be included to visually reinforce the dominating motion of black across the painting.

In terms of lines, we see at the center an intersection of the two predominant poles of black paint, a moment that is mirrored by the grey positioned just slightly above and to the left. While the lines do not suggest any traditional perspective, movement can be seen in the way the black begins at a single point at the near-center of the canvas and protrudes outward. The thickness by which the paint was applied also lends mass to the black portions of the painting. Kline’s layering of the paint over lighter portions creates the feeling of a lush, black mass laying over the lighter whites and greys.

The painting’s gloom consumes the viewer, and the mind sets out to organize, or construct, an otherwise structureless form in an attempt to make sense of a senseless mass. For Kline, it is possible that while hinting at a coherent plane or order to the distribution of color (as seen in the direction of the brush strokes), in actuality there may be very little. Ultimately the viewer struggles to find a moment where they can piece together an image, a geometric figure, a piece of reality, walking away instead with only the pervasive sense of darkness existing as a chaotic force, disturbing and concealing what light exists.  

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