Fine Artists: Paul Klee Swiss Painter 1879-1940

"Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter" -Paul Klee

Paul Klee abstract painting "red Balloon"Paul Klee was Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorous works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry. Primitive art, Surrealism, Cubism, and children's art all seem blended into his small-scale, delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings. Paul Klee's highly individual style was influenced by many different art trends and he was a student of Orientalism. Paul Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered color theory, and wrote extensively about it. Paul Klee's works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes child-like perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality. Paul Klee and his friend, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, were also famous for teaching at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture.

A German citizen, Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, on December 18, 1879into a musical family. His father, Hans Klee, was a German music teacher at the Hofwil Teacher Seminar near Bern. His mother, Ida Frick, had trained to be a singer. He was the second of two children. Klee started young at both art and music. At age seven, Paul Klee started playing the violin, and at age eight, he was given a box of chalk by his grandmother. Klee appears to have been equally talented in music and art. In his early years, following his parents’ wishes, Paul Klee focused on becoming a musician; but he decided on the visual arts during his teen years, partly out of rebellion and partly because of his belief that modern music lacked meaning for him. Paul Klee stated, “ I didn’t find the idea of going in for music creatively particularly attractive in view of the decline in the history of musical achievement.” As a musician, he played and felt emotionally bound to traditional works of the 18th and 19th century, but as an artist he craved the freedom to explore radical ideas and styles. At sixteen, Paul Klee’s landscape drawings already show considerable skill.

Swis artist Paul Klee painting "Once emerged from the Gray of Night"With his parents reluctant permission, in 1898 Paul Klee began studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. He excelled at drawing but seemed to lack any natural color sense. He later recalled, “During the third winter I even realized that I probably would never learn to paint.” Two of his best-known etchings, dating from 1903, are Virgin in a Tree and Two Men Meet, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank. Such peculiar, evocative titles are characteristic of Klee and give his works an added dimension of meaning. In 1906 Paul Klee married the pianist Lili Stumpf and settled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art.

Paul Klee joined Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), an expressionist group that contributed much to the development of abstract art. The monument of Klee's obsession with this metaphysics was a singular book, "The Thinking Eye", written during his teaching years at the Bauhaus - one of the most detailed manuals on the "science" of design ever written, conceived in terms of an all embracing theory of visual "equivalents" for spiritual states which, in its knotty elaboration, rivaled Kandinsky's. Klee tended to see the world as a model, a kind of order run up by the cosmic clockmaker - a Swiss God - to demonstrate spiritual truth. This helps account for the toy like character of his fantasies; if the world had no final reality, it could be represented with the freest, most schematic wit, and this Klee set out to do. Hence his reputation as a petit-maître.

Paul Klee abstract painting "Red and White Domes"A turning point in Paul Klee's career was his visit to Tunisia with August Macke and Louis Molliet in 1914. He was  overwhelmed by the intense light and the watercolor "Red and White Domes" (shown here) is distinctive of this period. Klee often incorporated letters and numerals into his paintings, as in "Once Emerged from the Gray of Night "(shown above) . These, part of Klee's complex language of symbols and signs, are drawn from the unconscious and used to obtain a poetic amalgam of abstraction and reality. He wrote that "Art does not reproduce the visible, it makes visible," and he pursued this goal in a wide range of media using an amazingly inventive battery of techniques.

Line and color predominate with Paul Klee, but he also produced series of works that explore mosaic and other effects. Klee taught at the Bauhaus school after World War I, where his friend Kandinsky was also a faculty member. In 1931 he began teaching at Dusseldorf Academy, but he was dismissed by the Nazis, who termed his work "degenerate." In 1933, Klee went to Switzerland. There he came down with the crippling collagen disease scleroderma, which forced him to develop a simpler style and eventually killed him.
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Paul Klee
Artist
Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorous works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry