Coat and Steel exhibition featuring works of Franz Kline opens Oct. 7 and is curated by Robert S. Mattison, Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette

The Allentown Art Museum is hosting Franz Kline: Coal and Steel from Oct. 7, 2012 through Jan. 13, 2013. Curated by Robert S. Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College in Easton, the exhibition includes 64 works by  Pennsylvania-born Kline, including many rarely or never seen by the public.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Kline moved as a boy to Lehighton during the height of anthracite mining, and became a major figure of the American Abstract Expressionist movement, which emerged in the 1940s and 50s and was centered in New York City.

Kline’s early work pays homage to the coal regions of his childhood home and depicts speeding trains powered by anthracite, bridges, and raw industrial scenes. In New York, he painted on the “edge” of the city, illustrating empty squares, skeletal buildings, and the abandoned
Third Avenue El.

In the Coal and Steel exhibition, Mattison makes the case that around 1950, when Kline developed the large-scale black-and-white abstract paintings for which he became internationally famous, he was channeling memories of the trestles, locomotives, and coal breakers of his youth. These forms symbolized for him the force of the modern industrial age and informed his contribution to the New York School of painting.

The author of five books, Mattison also authored the exhibition catalogue, which is on sale in the museum store for $25.

Programming related to Coal and Steel:
– A Black & White Preview Party of the Franz Kline Exhibition and the Walker Evans & The American Social Landscape Photographers will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6 at the museum. Admission is free for museum members and $15 for the general public.

– Curator of the Franz Kline exhibition, Robert S. Mattison, the Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College, and Irving Sandler, the preeminent authority of Abstract Expressionism, will hold a public conversation and Q&A on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. at the museum. Sandler, a regular contributor on CBS News programs “Sunday Morning” and “60 Minutes,” and Mattison will discuss Kline’s Pennsylvania roots, his relationship to industrial history as well as his place in the context of the New York art scene and his role in Abstract Expressionism. To register, go to or call (610) 432-4333, ext. 110. Tickets are $5 for members and $15 for nonmembers.

– On Wednesday, Nov. 7 at noon, Mattison will walk visitors through the Coal and Steel exhibition.  The 45-minute talk is free with museum admission.

– On Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m., Mattison will give a talk about Kline’s roots in Pennsylvania and the influence of coal-mining and railroad imagery on his art. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A. To register go to or call (610) 432-4333, ext. 110. Tickets are $5 for members and $15 for nonmembers.


Image ©The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York – 2012
Photography by David W. Coulter
Higher resolution images available online,

Kathleen Parrish
Associate Director of Media Relations
Lafayette College
Communications Division
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 330-5524