Frank Kleinholz – A 20th Century American Modernist
By Gary D. Grossman
(Reprinted from the Fine Arts Trader, March 1998)
Frank Kleinholz was born in 1901 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a blind father and hard-working mother who supported the family by running a delicatessen. At an early age Kleinholz learned the value of self-reliance and hard work as he aided in the support of his family by selling newspapers and running errands for neighbors and local businesses. This work ethic helped him later in life and at the age of 23 he was admitted to the New York Bar, having attended Fordham Law School. Although Kleinholz practiced insurance law until 1945, he began painting and print-making seriously in the mid 1930’s under the tutelage of well known contemporary artists such as Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Sol Wilson. He quickly achieved a high level of artistic respect and in 1941 his painting Abstractionists was one of 302 works chosen from a field of nearly 5000 for inclusion in the exhibition “Directions in American Painting” at the Carnegie Institute. Kleinholz’s career quickly soared, and between 1941 and the 1980’s he participated in many group exhibitions in highly respected venues (e.g. Philips Gallery, Carnegie Institute, National Academy of Design, Metropolitan Museum Art, Chicago Art Institute, Brooklyn Museum, Pennsylvania Fine Arts, Butler Institute, Moscow Museum Fine Art, Montclair Art Museum, Worcester Art Institute, Har Zion Temple, Library of Congress, and Jewish Center). In addition, he was invited to present one-man shows at both prestigious public and private galleries (e.g. Philips Gallery Washington D.C., American Artists Group Chicago IL , Palmer House Galleries Chicago IL, Park Gallery Detroit MI, Galerie de Ville Beverly Hills CA, ACA Galleries New York NY, Maxwell Galleries San Francisco CA, Akron Art Institute Akron OH, Four Winds Gallery Kalamazoo MI, Galerie 99 Miami Beach FL, Colby College Waterville ME). Kleinholz died sometime during the 1980’s Although Kleinholz’s style is unique, his work is firmly based in a variety of 20th century artistic movements including Expressionism, American Social Realism, and the School of Paris. His artistic output was diverse including: paintings, black and white prints in a variety of media, hand-colored serigraphs, and full-color printed serigraphs. Thematically, Kleinholz’s work focuses on interpretations of contemporary urban life as experienced by families. Human interactions and relationships obviously were of special interest to Kleinholz, in particular those of adults and children. Many of his best works focus on these bonds. Nonetheless, the influence of the Depression and World Wars were strongly evident in the somber expressions, low key palette, and muted tones of some of his early work (i.e. 1940’s to 1950). These intensely personal paintings and prints (e.g. Keep Off the Grass, Day’s End, Show Me That You Love Me), display the alienation and despair reminiscent of the works of the leaders of German Expressionism (e.g., Kathe Kollewitz and Eric Heckel). In the late 1940’s Kleinholz’s thematic interests broadened and it is here that he begins to focus on family life and children, themes that would dominate his oeuvre until his death. Concomitant with these themes is a lightening of his palette via increased use of high key primary colors. This is most evident in his hand-colored prints of the 1950’s-1970’s. The last prints of his career (post-1975) were full color printed serigraphs that frequently depicted children in fantasy-like settings. Stylistically, Kleinholz’s color prints and paintings are composed of geometric planes of color with shortened perspective. Their subject matter has been reduced to outlines filled with either monochromatic, or slightly varying hues, with occasional brush strokes to denote crucial aspects of detail. Adjacent objects frequently have strikingly different hues which shock the observer into acknowledging the boundaries between human and material existence. As with Chagall and Raul and Jean Dufy, Kleinholz’s brushwork and palette are designed to convey emotion and sub-text rather than merely record their subjects. Although Kleinholz’s work is representational, his purpose clearly is to emphasize the complex emotional content underlying everyday lives and objects. Frank Kleinholz achieved a high level of prominence in the world of art and his prints and paintings are in a large number of public and private collections including: Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Fine Arts Museum (Moscow), Brooklyn Museum, Museum Modern Art (Tel Aviv), Newark Museum, Butler Art Institute, Akron Art Institute, University of Miami, University of Oklahoma, Syracuse University, Brandeis University, Auburn University, Marquette University, Encyclopedia Brittanica Collection, Sackler Collection (NY), Hirshhorn Collection (NY), Abbott collection (IL) and the Dorne Collection (CT).
REFERENCES: 1) Who Was Who in American Art. 1985. P. Falk. 2) Frank Kleinholz-The Outsider. 1969. By A. Freundlich. University of Miami Press. 3) Frank Kleinholz, a Self-Portrait. 1964. By. F. Kleinholz (Foreword by Philip Evergood), Shorewood Press, NY. 4) Frank Kleinholz, Catalog Raisonne of Prints 1940-1975. 1976. By Sylvan Cole, University of Miami Press.
Hand-Colored and Full-Colored Serigraphs (Catalog Raisonne #, Cole 1975)
Prints are in excellent condition with the exception of a soft fold or two in the large, full margins. Many other images are available. Prices available upon request. Some of the scans show reflections off the acetate covering the print.
Ripe Fruit 1962, 11 1/2″ X 7″ (Cole 64).
Ballons 1971, 19 1/2″ X 15 1/8″ (Cole 125).
Bouquet 1961, 16″ X 13 1/2″ (Cole 61).
View From a Fire Escape 1962, 18 3/4″ X 7 1/4″ (Cole 66).
Two Heads 1969, 9 1/2″ X 11 1/4″ (Cole 113).
The Drawing Lesson 1966, 5″ X 4 3/4″ (Cole 100).
Three Graces 1966, 6 1/2″ X 5 5/8″ (Cole 102).
Tourists 1970, 5 7/8″ X 4 7/8″ (Cole 117).
Come Let Us Light the Menorah1964, 20″ X 14″ (Cole 82).
Big Catch 1975, 18 1/2″ X 22″.
Kites 1975, 24″ X 18 1/2″.
Figures & Building1976, 22″ X 18″.