Simple observations of beautiful subjects are at the heart of painter Michael Klein’s work. The artist most often captures fleeting beauty in timeless still lifes.
Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York City, Klein’s studio is an oasis amid chaos. There, he finds inspiration to create art that focuses on tranquility—on the simple, unadorned beauty of a few flowers, a handful of fruit, or a woman stretched out on a bed.
Klein grew up in a small town in North Dakota before seeking out an informal education in classical art in Minneapolis. Engaging in several master-student relationships, and reveling in workshop environments, Klein began to develop his own sense of artistry. He credits his seven years of art education for giving him a strong foundation in the classical elements of art from sculpture, figure drawing, and still life where technique and interpretation work together.
“I gravitated toward painting still lifes and, in particular, florals,” Klein says. When people responded positively to his early paintings, he kept at it.
Spending time in Argentina, Klein’s wife’s native land, over the past few years (his first trip was in 2006) has further enhanced his appreciation for the natural world, and gardens in particular. Argentina’s incredibly rich soil produces gorgeous and diverse flowers, he says, which cemented nature’s blooms as his art’s concentration. “I’ve kept pushing forward with that idea,” Klein says.
Back in New York, Klein chooses his flowers from the Chelsea Flower Market and typically sets the flowers in simple arrangements for his paintings. The artist does all his painting from real experiences, preferring to engage with the subject more intimately than he believes a photograph allows. A typical piece takes roughly three days, he says, just enough time to capture the pinnacle of a flower’s life. Even in that short time, the flowers do move and open up, forcing the artist to make decisions on how to ultimately depict the subject.
Each painting—most of his work is in oils—is an attempt to transcend the deeper beauty of its subject, Klein says. Choosing simple, often dark, and sometimes brooding, backdrops for his paintings allows the artist and the viewer to focus on the true beauty of the flowers.
“I want the color of the flowers to be the focal point,” Klein says. “I want to make it less pretty, so I typically use a somber background.”
Most of his portayals are life size portrayals, so the subjects appear vividly right in front of the viewer. He rarely works on a large scale painting, preferring to concentrate on smaller, more intimate works.
“What I love about art is you don’t have to have a degree in art theory to find value in something done by hand—you can just enjoy it,” Klein says.