Franz Kline spent years struggling to find a style for himself and then achieved “overnight success” with his dramatic black and white abstractions. They were, in fact, so successful that they overwhelmed every other aspect of Kline’s art, and as a result he has been oversimplified and underestimated. Now, after nearly twenty years of research, Harry F. Gaugh has written the definitive volume on Kline, which provides the first comprehensive view of his life and work, and reveals how unexpectedly complex they both were. Using interviews and correspondence with dozens of Kline’s friends and critics, and quoting from the artist’s own letters, the author has created an evocative portrait of Kline’s evolution from an ambitious art student in Boston and London to a penniless Greenwich Village artist painting murals in bars just to pay the rent, and finally to a mature artist in command of his own unique and hard-won style. Kline made his initial, admittedly modest, reputation as a figurative artist, and rare photographs of that early work–sketches from life-drawing class, portraits of Nijinsky, scenes of the Pennsylvania countryside–offer an intriguing background for his later paintings. Not until his late thirties did Kline begin to develop an abstract mode, working his way through a series of strikingly dissimilar styles. Dr. Gaugh illuminates how talent, training, experimentation, the influence of fellow artists, and pure chance interacted to yield the famous black and white abstractions. When he died in 1962, Kline had begun exploring the potential of vibrant color, and the vivid full-color reproductions of his late paintings make poignantly clear how much the art world lost with his death at the relatively young age of fifty-one. With its detailed yet thoroughly readable text and 170 illustrations (many never before published) this comprehensive volume brings to light much new information about Kline and enriches the reader’s appreciation and understanding of his art.