Monday, February 9, 2009
Franz Kline Meets Robert Creeley – "Thank You"
Reading about Franz Kline, you find he drank a great deal. Some even said when he wasn't painting what he did was drink. His favorite place to do that was where most of the other Abstract Expressionist would go, the Cedar Street Tavern. He was a regular and this snippet from Irving Sandler captures the scene...
"Franz Kline held court at the Cedar Street Tavern almost every night after ten. He would talk to anyone and consequently was the most accessible of his peers to young artists - and to me. Franz was the most amiable of the older Abstract Expressionists. As one admirer recalled 'He liked beer at the Cedar Bar and English tea in the studio. He could play the dandy or the clown, act like Ted Lewis, Wallace Beery, or Mae West, talk about rugs, vintage cars, Gericault's horse, baseball, and Baron Gros. He loved jazz and Wagner. He was a confirmed New Yorker, but had roots that he never forgot in the gritty coal country of eastern Pennsylvania.... He could juggle life until it came up fun.' ... Every now and then Franz would grow silent, his eyes distant, and he would appear overcome with loneliness - even in the company of friends - a look that is often caught in photographs of him. I often wondered how much of this sadness was caused by the plight of his wife, Elizabeth, a former ballet dancer. From 1948 to 1960, she was committed to a mental institution where Franz visited her periodically." (self-portrait to the left done in 1946)
There's more though. Kline was not only friends with artists but also poets and other writers. Here's a wonderful look into Kline. Basil King recounts Franz Kline meeting the poet, Robert Creeley, for the first time in the Cedar Bar.
"But to this day Franz Kline meeting Robert Creeley is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever witnessed. Bob and I were drinking beer in one of the booths that lined the walls of the old Cedar Bar.Bob had recently moved back to the states and had stopped off in New York on his way to Black Mountain College. Bob was wearing the blue winter coat that Zukofsky had given him. He didn’t have any money, and I had credit at the bar. It was late in the afternoon, and Franz Kline walked in and sat down next to me. Franz, meet Robert Creeley. Awe came over Kline’s face. He shifted his weight, adjusted his brown hat, and took Bob’s hands and held them. “I can’t tell you how much your poetry means to me.” Franz was still holding Bob’s hands when Bob broke the silence. “Thank You.”