Skip to Content
100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
© 2010 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
American, 1910 - 1962
Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite

55 x 79 5/16 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase, by exchange

Arts of North America

In the early 1950s, Franz Kline began paring down his paintings, purging them of all color and representational references. Wotan is one of his most austere compositions, focused simply on the stark contrast between his black brushstrokes and their white background. Kline insisted that all areas of his canvases were equal in weight: “I paint the white as well as the black, and the white is just as important.”

This iconic image records the power of the artist's vision and the authority of his gesture. The title, Wotan, refers to a Germanic deity of the pre-Christian era. A king of the gods, Wotan could also assume the role of wanderer, seer, and poet. Additionally, Wotan was a central character in Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle operas, which Kline often listened to in the art studio. For Kline, the title is not intended to describe the character of his painting; rather, by summoning up a mythic past, Kline claims a similar timelessness for his bold and revolutionary work.