Telling the Story of a Nation

American Cities: Franz Kline

32-cent Mahoning stamp
The 32-cent stamp featuring "Mahoning" by Franz Kline was issued August 27, 1998.

Franz Kline, an important American artist from the abstract expressionist movement, depicts the “city” in his work. Kline’s means of painting is drastically different from Hopper’s realism. He turns to abstraction, representing the urban lifestyle using dark brushstrokes against lighter backgrounds. His painting “Mahoning” demonstrates his style. The Postal Service issued a stamp featuring this work in 1998 as part of the Four Centuries of American Art Issue.

Howard Paine, the designer of the American Art Issue, had to convince the Kline estate to let him crop the picture for use on a postage stamp. He said, “We had to negotiate. We showed them how we had cropped other paintings and urged them to let us do this one…” Once given permission to use the piece, the creator also thought this image worked well because its characteristics blended with the other stamps of the issue. According to Linn’s 1998 US Stamp Yearbook, “Paine pointed out that the heavy diagonal line across the center of the Kline painting forms an extension of the diagonal of the rooftop on the…painting to its left. ‘It’s extremely subtle, but it kind of weds the pictures together,’ he said.”