Emerging Artists | Michael Klein

Truthful depictions, old-school traditions

Michael Klein, Moonlit Walk, oil, 9 x 15.

Michael Klein, Moonlit Walk, oil, 9 x 15.

This story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  May 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Hewing faithfully to the Renaissance and French academic traditions, Michael Klein is among the vanguard of contemporary painters working to rekindle classical art. The North Dakota native attended a string of ateliers and workshops in the Midwest before finishing his studies at the Water Street Atelier in New York City in 2005, training his eye on painting still lifes and the figure from life. Although he devotes most of his attention to floral still lifes these days, Klein is equally proficient at painting portraits. Last year, in fact, he snapped up the grand prize in the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition for NYC ENTREPRENEUR, in which he captures a friend’s business-driven resolve.

Today Klein lives in Raleigh, NC, where he paints, teaches workshops, and enjoys the robust art community, mild clime, and abundant local flora for inspiration. He also travels with his wife to her hometown in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he maintains a second studio surrounded by similarly lush environs. Both locations suit Klein’s proclivity for examining flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other organic materials through form, light, brushwork, and chromatic harmony. “You have a range of neutral to high-chroma colors to exhibit your understanding of color,” the artist explains. “Often, color is exaggerated—there are false harmonies.” Klein, who favors earth-based pigments mixed with oil, strives to portray color truthfully in his work, from bouquets of ivory, violet, and pale-pink garden flowers to a bucolic spread of black raspberries, white roses, and tarnished metal pails on rumpled burlap.

Recently Klein embarked on a series of studio paintings that depict the wild horses and seascapes of Shackleford Banks, an island off the coast of North Carolina. There, feral mustangs roam freely in the absence of human habitation. “These horses have been wandering the island for 400 years. It’s fascinating. There’s a gritty truth to it,” says Klein. He has visited the island to observe, sketch, and photograph the sights and plans to return frequently as he expands his series. One painting debuted in the California Art Club’s Gold Medal Exhibition in April. Despite his passionate commitment to the project, however, Klein has no plans to abandon his creative mainstay. “I’ll always be a floral painter,” he says. “I can’t put it down. I love it.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Ann Long Fine Art, Charleston, SC; Collins Galleries, Orleans, MA; Legacy Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Maxwell Alexander Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

This story was featured in the May 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  May 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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