Sunday, July 26, 2009

Color Palettes: Michael Klein (b. 1980)

Michael Klein is an American, realist painter currently living and working in Argentina. His artwork, meticulously planned and executed, shows a wonderful mastery of subtle color and tone control which belies his young age. Not yet in his thirties, Klein has already amassed an incredible body of work, and has secured representation with one of the nation's premier contemporary realist galleries, Arcadia Fine Arts Gallery in New York City. When he and his wife move back to the United States in 2010, his return will be marked by his second solo show with the SoHo gallery. Clearly, his is a career on the rise, and one which shows the fruits of hard work and an unrelenting dedication to one's craft.

Born in 1980, Michael Klein was only nineteen when he began his serious program of atelier-manner study. His first teacher was Richard Whitney, one of the nation's most honored figurative painters, and an heir to the teachings of R.H. Ives Gammell and the Boston School Tradition. After two years with Whitney, Klein continued study along the same artistic lineage by entering The Atelier in Minneapolis, the very school founded by Richard Lack, the artist whose singular efforts were largely responsible for the revival of traditional art skills in the United States. Seeking to broaden his experience, Klein next left his home in the midwest to move east, where he began studies at the Art Students League of New York, most notably under the tutelage of portraitist Nelson Shanks. Then in 2002, Klein moved to what would become his final school, the Water Street Atelier, where he apprenticed under founder Jacob Collins until 2005. By 2008, in culmination of his studies, he held his first solo show at Arcadia Gallery at the young age of 27.

Citing the Naturalists as his inspiration, Klein has worked diligently to reproduce the lighting effects of an overcast day in many of his paintings. His studio in Argentina even has an addition with an open roof, personally built by Klein, which allows for natural sunlight to filter in through various scrims, while he himself works protected from many of the problems usually associated with plein air painting. Unlike the Naturalists, however, Klein recreates these atmospheric effects without benefit of photographs to provide an underlying structure, preferring instead to draw and paint solely from life.

Despite the appearance of limited colors, Klein uses a very standard color palette. His color choices consist of (from right to left on his palette):

  • Raw Sienna Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale
  • Yellow Ochre Pale
  • White (Either Cremnitz or titanium, or a mixture of the two)
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Cadmium Red Deep
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson
  • Raw Umber
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Ivory Black
  • Cobalt Violet
  • Viridian Green

Michael typically works on lead primed linen, or on a high quality alkyd or oil primed linen like Claessens #13 DP, Portrait Grade. He often primes this with an imprimatura of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, mixed incompletely and diluted with turpentine, applied with a rag and rubbed down on the canvas. His usual brushes are Royal & Langnickel 5590 Sable Flats, and Robert Simmons Signet Flat Bristles.


Michael Klein offers two DVDs for sale through his website, the newer of which, Flower Painting, I recently had the pleasure of viewing. Produced and directed by Klein, it is unlike any other art video I have watched. In many respects, it is really more of a documentary film about the making of a painting, and not a traditional instructional video. As such, there is as much artistry devoted to the film-making, as there was devoted to the painting itself.

The DVD opens with Klein sweeping the dirt floor of his Buenos Aires studio, which immediately gives the impression of an old-world artist beginning his day. It continues over the next sixteen days following Klein through his skillful painting and rigorous planning (I for one, who have not painted any flowers beyond a single sitting, would never have considered accounting for the bloom time of a rose from bud to full-flower). Klein does not talk much through the video, but his judicious use of words is always informative and to the point. He does not give a step-by-step account of his procedure, but much can be gained by watching him throughout this creation, from his choice of composition, through his drawing and transfer to the final canvas, to the completed painting.

This DVD is among my favorites, and I recommend it to anyone wishing to watch traditional painting methods in action.

Below are images from Klein's other DVD, Black Dress.


Gregory Becker said...

This guy is tremendous. I love his work. I will keep coming back to view this post. This is as good as your post on George Clausen.
I have a question...
Whenever I see reflections I notice that they point to the spot that I am standing on. This is easy to notice if your standing next to a lake.
Alot of painters paint them straight down but if I am standing on the reflections' vanishing point they should appear to subtley point toward the viewer. All things considered being, cone of vision, relation to the picture plane etc...
Why does it seem like that isn't compensated for in most paintings that contain reflections?
The picture above of the vases looks like that to me.

genesis2 said...

Great post! I find it so difficult to find artist's painting{on the net} in a realistic manner, harder to find someone as talented as Michael Klein. His paintings are are jaw dropping beautiful. I am teaching myself to draw and paint in a realist style and your blog is one I enjoy coming to for inspiration.
Thanks so much

Michael J. Ruple said...

Check out More works from Michael Klein @ Arcadia Fine Arts Website here:

And to see his previous Exhibition @ Arcadia Gallery in 2008 follow this link:

Jana said...

What a great article & terrific artist to discover! Thanks for the images & introduction.

Joseph Sapulich said...

Thank you for putting the time into this blog. It has been and continues to be inspirational.

jeff f said...

Michael Klein paints way beyond his years. He's an amazing painter.

I think he also had Cadmium Yellow Pale or light on his palette in the flower DVD.

innisart said...

I think you're right, Jeff. It's been bothering me since I put the post up. Klein and I were corresponding, and the colors listed on the post were the ones he told me he used, but without the cad yellow, his greens would be severely limited. Perhaps he only adds the cad yellow pale for certain projects, and avoids it for others (ie. interior figure work). I'm going to go ahead and add it to the list; it's definitely in the Flower Painting video.

Rebecca Harp said...

A great artist here, with true poetry in his works. You have all seen the dvd that came out several years about Antonio Lopez Garcia? "El Membrillo del Sol", It is an astounding film achievement which follows Garcia as he paints a quince tree, washes his brushes, smokes a cigarette, chats with a friend, paints the tree, looks at the fruit, etc; in the second dvd in the set Garcia appears in a important, poignant interview with the filmmaker, along with painting on other locations. As the idea for Yellow Flower was inspired by El Membrillo del Sol, try to find it (it can be hard, I found it in a dvd library in tel aviv)

Jose Romero said...

Rebecca, just two small corrections from Spain... The film is "El sol del membrillo", and the painter is not Garcia, but Lopez. Garcia is the second last name, wich you don´t need to add in spanish... Antonio Lopez is just right.

Damian Hoskins said...

I have a set of online bookmarks of artist that I've entitled "emotive artist." Klein is the latest on that short list. An "emotive artist" for me is one whose work actually causes me to breath deeply when I view it (even in cyberspace). Klein's work is inspired and inspiring, like good music. Bravo.