55 x 79 5/16 inches
Museum purchase, by exchangeArts 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.