I met Franz Kline in Provincetown Mass. He bought a house next door to my studio. I think he had just hit it big and was enjoying buying a house that included an old boathouse that had been Hans Hoffmans school.
He hired three or four guys, including me, to fix it up. He installed two refrigerators, one for food and the other for beer which he stacked with cans of ” Black Label “, his drink of choice. He said to us, “Help yourselves” and then took off for New York City in a brand new black Ford Thunderbird.
We did some patching and plastering, then took a break. Help yourselves echoed in our heads. So we did. We looked around for what was called ” a church key “, a can opener. Could not find one anywhere, sort of odd there being a frig full of beer. Then someone said, ” we should look in his bed.” And sure enough, there it was plus a few cans of Black Label.
Franz Kline was a very generous guy who came out of the depression and knew hard times. I had met him a year before he bought that house, but did not know it. An agent sent my wife and I to see a winter studio in Provincetown , We were planning on spending the winter. We knocked on the studio door and a guy came to the door not too tall and with thick black hair and a pencil mustash. He had on shorts and a small apron around his waist. He let us in to look around. On the table where he was working were a bunch of calligraphic, small black ink brush drawings. We did not take long and left, thanking him. It was a pleasant place but not for us. It was later the next year when I worked for him I realized who we had met.
While I worked for him, I also ran the Sun Gallery in Provincetown. He came by one evening with a few friends. We sat and polished off a gallon of a cheap Italian wine, Tavola. We all laughed, as we had been drinking it straight out of the bottle and our lips were purple.
I saw a Franz Kline painting at the Egan Gallery one time in the late fifties. It was big, black and white and called ” New Years Eve”. Apparently he did not go out partying that year and stayed home and painted. I did that this year and it made me think of him.
Here is a painting of him, Franz Kline, wading out of the sea.
Happy New Year.