© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

For Franz Kline, the series of paintings that includes High Street was a breakthrough, marking his transformation from an illustrator and sidewalk artist to a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement of the early 1950s. Made with housepainters’ brushes and cheap enamel house paint, the series has the monumental intensity and fierce directness that would come to characterize Kline’s subsequent work. Despite the spontaneous look of his canvas, however, Kline carefully planned these compositions in preliminary sketches. The calligraphic black forms often evoke urban landscapes, machinery, or the engines, bridges, and railroads of the artist’s Pennsylvania youth. But Kline sought complete abstraction, and he worked the white paint as aggressively as the black, giving it a sculptural quality and material presence. The result is a dense, rugged, allover ground that challenges the impulse to see the composition as identifiable black figures on a white background.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Franz Kline, American (Wilkes-Barre, PA 1910 - 1962 New York, NY)
High Street
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Level 1, Room 1200, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction I
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
sight: 147.64 x 196.85 cm (58 1/8 x 77 1/2 in.)
framed: 150.18 x 199.39 x 5.08 cm (59 1/8 x 78 1/2 x 2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: Kline
[Charles Egan Gallery, New York, New York], 1950. [Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York] 1956, sold; to Lois Orswell, Promfret Center, Connecticut, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1971.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
© The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

[Unidentified article], Fogg Art Museum Newsletter, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, February 1972), reproduced

Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Abbeville Press/Harvard University Art Museums, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, reproduced in b/w fig. 5, p. 16

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 87, fig. 131, pp. 321, 324 (repr. b/w), 376

Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Friends: Works from the Lois Orswell Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., Knoedler & Co. Inc. (New York, 2003), p43

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 221, ill

Harry Cooper, Spatter and Daub: Harry Cooper on the Contradiction of Abstract Expressionism, Artforum (New York, 2011), XLIV, No. 10, pp. 317-319, p. 318, ill.

Exhibition History

Franz Kline, Charles Egan Gallery, New York, 10/16/1950 - 11/04/1950

Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977

Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986

Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Friends: Works from the Lois Orswell Collection, Harvard University, Knoedler & Co. Inc., New York, 11/14/2003 - 01/24/2004

Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011

32Q: 1200 Mid-Century Abstraction I (Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu