Torches Mauve

Franz Kline, American, 1910 - 1962

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

10 feet 1/8 inches x 6 feet 9 1/8 inches (305.1 x 206.1 cm)

© The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the artist, 1961

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Toward the end of his career Franz Kline went beyond a predominantly black and white palette to use strong colors for the sweeping gestures of his brushwork. This painting takes its title from the tube paint he purchased from Joseph Torch's art supply store in New York City.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Franz Kline is best known for his sweeping black-and-white strokes of paint that represent some of the purest examples of Abstract Expressionism during the 1940s and 1950s. By the late 1950s, however, Kline reintroduced color into his work as a way to extend and rearticulate the essential tensions between black and white. In Torches Mauve, the atmospheric haze of purple does not mitigate the sense of movement and pressure that arises between the two primary tones, but rather enriches it by creating a kind of plasmic environment in which the black exists. For all its suggestion of some elegiac ceremony illuminated by flames, Torches Mauve was in fact named for a brand of purple oil paint manufactured by Joseph Torch on Fourteenth Street in New York City. John B. Ravenal, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 333.
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    The enormous scaffolded structures of Franz Kline's paintings epitomize many aspects of Abstract Expressionism: mural scale, innovative brushwork, allover imagery, and dense space. The artist's powerful, sweeping strokes were often created with a four-inch-wide housepainting brush, which in his early days he would load with whatever paint he could get his hands on. In the late 1950s at the urging of his dealer, Sidney Janis, Kline began to use high-quality tube paint, purchased from Joseph Torch's art supply store at 147 West 14th Street in New York. Torch sold his own brand of "permanent artists' oil colors," made to his specifications, and this work adopts its title (though slightly transformed) from the mauve oil paint that Kline used to paint it.

    The artist's earlier abstractions took form primarily in stark configurations of black and white. Kline had shied away from exhibiting paintings incorporating his favorite blues, lemon yellows, and deep mauves until he found a way to give color the monumental presence and raw emotional power of black and white. Torches Mauve is an early example of that breakthrough. Kline's bravura handling of paint is evident in the variegated surface texture, which appears to have been painted very quickly. In several passages Kline applied the paint thickly, as he built the architectonic structure of the work out of great slabs of black, like girders, only to scrape through the wet surface with a palette knife to admit light and air into otherwise opaque spaces. The atmospheric flashes of mauve deepen the mood of Kline's painting, imparting a sense of towering strength and epic grandeur. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 101.