Swiss-born German artist
December 18, 1879
in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland
His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually deeply explored color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci‘s A Treatise on Painting for the Renaissance. He and his colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture in Germany. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.
Klee was able to develop his music skills as his parents encouraged and inspired him throughout his life. He was so talented on violin that, aged 11, he received an invitation to play as an extraordinary member of the Bern Music Association. In his early years, following his parents’ wishes, Klee focused on becoming a musician; but he decided on the visual arts during his teen years, partly out of rebellion and partly because modern music lacked meaning for him. He 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 eighteenth and nineteenth century, but as an artist he craved the freedom to explore radical ideas and styles. At sixteen, Klee’s landscape drawings already show considerable skill.
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.”
Klee has been variously associated with Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, and Abstraction, but his pictures are difficult to classify. He generally worked in isolation from his peers, and interpreted new art trends in his own way. He was inventive in his methods and technique. Klee worked in many different media—oil paint, watercolor, ink, pastel, etching, and others. He often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint. Klee employed spray paint, knife application, stamping, glazing, and impasto, and mixed media such as oil with watercolor, watercolor with pen and India ink, and oil with tempera.
He was a natural draftsman, and through long experimentation developed a mastery of color and tonality. Many of his works combine these skills. He uses a great variety of color palettes from nearly monochromatic to highly polychromatic. His works often have a fragile childlike quality to them and are usually on a small scale. He often used geometric forms and grid format compositions as well as letters and numbers, frequently combined with playful figures of animals and people. Some works were completely abstract. Many of his works and their titles reflect his dry humor and varying moods; some express political convictions. They frequently allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes include words or musical notation. The later works are distinguished by spidery hieroglyph-like symbols.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about Klee:
“Even if you hadn’t told me he plays the violin, I would have guessed that on many occasions his drawings were transcriptions of music.”
Klee is a painter very near and dear to my heart and compiling this was a joy!
So here’s a glimpse of his work & words
“First of all, the art of living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and as my real profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations.”
“A line is a dot that went for a walk.”
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”
“One eye sees, the other feels.”
“When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.”
“Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off.”
“My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.”
“A single day is enough to make us a little larger or, another time, a little smaller.”
“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
“To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.”
“The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.”
“Nature is garrulous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.”
Unlike his taste for adventurous modern experiment in painting, Klee appreciated neither composers of the late 19th century, such as Wagner, Bruckner and Mahler, nor contemporary music. Bach and Mozart were for him the greatest composers; he most enjoyed playing the works by the latter.
This gives me the opportunity to combine two personal favorites.
We listen to
French Suite No.3 in B minor BWV814
00:05 – Allemande
03:06 – Courante
04:54 – Sarabande
07:35 – Gavotte
08:57 – Menuet
10:03 – Trio
11:35 – Gigue
Bachfest • Leipzig 11-06-2010
For more information on Klee:
It all comes back to me.
The more childlike his art is, the more I like it!
That makes two of us!!!!!
…and from you know who 🐾🐾🐾🐾🐾❤️❤️❤️❤️
Oh, you’ll need many more of those!!!
LOL! Going to the basement for more supplies! 😘😘😘🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽🧽
An amazing collection full of ideas. Brilliant.
Well said, “full of ideas”! One of my favorite painters.
I immediately thought of “99 Luftbalons” when I saw “Red Balloon”–and there’s the video! I’m listening now. The selection of paintings you’ve presented as just fascinating, particuarly because the titles added so much to them. I had several favorites, with “The Approximate Man” at the top of the list.
Ahhhh… that song!!!
I’m such a huge fan of Klee I’m finding it very hard to pick, so any painting you like is also a favorite to me! 🤣😉
I had no idea Klee was a child prodigy on the violin. Like Ken Powell above, I was surprised that he didn’t care for the classical music of his own time, even as he was breaking with tradition in his own visual art—of which you sure did show a lot. The bright geometry of “Double Tent” caught my fancy.
I’ve been a huge fan of his work for as long as I remember and I didn’t know about the violin either! As for his musical preferences, as I explained to Ken, sometimes a restless brain needs a ‘safe & solid’ ground to rest and Bach & Mozart are just that without compensating in ‘ground breaking’! 😉
That’s also one of my favorites…
On the amount of work I added, Ι realize I went a bit overboard but hey… I did mention I love his work!!! 😉🤣😂
Wow. There is an awful lot here! This might be one of your best presentations! Or I should say, one that speaks to me a lot. New Harmony is so ‘deconstruction/reconstruction.’ I certainly can relate to that. Making sense of / reordering life after the ‘warp and the woof’ has thrown your old worldview into the realm of shadows. Very nice! I like the music too. I tend to agree about Bach and Mozart. I guess it’s their almost mathematical symmetry that appeals to some. Beethoven piano sonatas would be my third “essential” choice… 🙂🏅💯🏅🏆
I realize I went overboard with Klee (hubs jokingly said “oh, I see you only uploaded about a thousand paintings…!” ) but he is as I mention a very very dear to me artist, so…
So glad you enjoyed and needless to say, I understand what you say!
Thank you, my friend!
Ha ha. Well, you bring it to life… your commentary and excellent presentation… all scaled/cropped just right… arranged so nicely. It’s like a visit to a top notch art history class, looking at your site.. without having to go anywhere or endure all the hassles! You should be one of those grande dames ruling a major art gallery! 😊💯🏅🕯️
Oh, noooooo…. I mean, a. I have goldfish memory and b. I wouldn’t have time for my own art 😉 I just picture myself as a kid playing in wonderland and this is what I share here. Just that my designer nature keeps things organized! 😉 Thank you, my dearest friend! 🙏😊🙏
I understand. Also, the average curator wouldn’t have the same kind of insight… you can’t be a big worldly organizer and a contemplative. You’re on another level, I think! 😇🙌🙏👼🙇🙇♀️🙇♂️🕊️
I never really got into Klee the same way I did Kandinsky, I must confess. I love his chromatic cubist stuff and much of his abstract work is quite mesmerising. I am much less convinced by his line drawing ‘child-like’ work which I find lacking in either emotional content or intellectual interest. Still, you’ve given a super collection here and a good many I would very happily hang on my wall!
I also find it hilarious that he didn’t like contemporary music – I had him down for Stravinsky, at least! I can imagine him saying of modern music what many would have been saying of his own art…
The connection we make with a painting is always a very personal thing. Even more so in abstract painting. So I understand. As I mention, his work is very close to my heart so naturally I love his line drawings as well as his chromatic plays! On music, I thought it was only natural that he would prefer more ‘traditional’ composers (if Bach and Mozart can be named ‘traditional’)😉
Thank you so much for taking the Klee journey with me, regardless! 🙏
Yes, tastes are always personal! I’m intrigued, why do you see it as natural for him to like Bach/Mozart? That’s a fascinating thought!
Scaled down, I’m using my thoughts to justify it. A restless brain needs a harmonic place to rest. Eventhough I do love many contemporary composers (some I adore like Shostakovich), I seek solace in Bach. It’s like diving to the core to find …peace of mind.
Ok I see that! I’m not sure what it says about me as an artist though! I love both Bach AND the great modern composers. Similarly with painters and writers too. Where that puts my ‘restless brain’ I have no idea! 😀
Restless brains tend to …unrest differently in each person, that’s why I said that it was a personal view judging from my ‘unrest’ 😉 Absolutely no reason in digging in chaos to sort it out! 😉 😂🤣😂🤣
Super post, Marina!
I really like that Klee used all mediums all the time.
I love that kind of freedom. For the Spirit Gowns, I used pencil, and red ballpoint pen.
I like mixing acrylics w/graphics pens &/or water colours.
This artist gives me license and confidence.
The music took me perfectly through the article.
Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed Klee work. He’s one of my dearest painters and very close to my mentality. I had to join my two faves here, Bach & Klee, I was very happy you enjoyed both.
PS you don’t need a ‘license ‘ from anyone!!! 😉😘😘😘😘😘
Now that you mention it, I don’t need a license!
There’s too, many know it all critics around.
I’m not listening any more.I grew up to “do your own thing”.
I shall re-embrace that saying!
Exactly right and
Much much love back!
Like “Red Balloon”!
Hooray. At least I’ve heard of Paul Klee. I may not have known much, but at least I have name recognition, Overall, I like this style – although there are some that I wince or shake my head. The three that captured my attention were Red Balloon, Night Feast, and the Horizons etc … fabulous … and thanks for bringing another artist into my life. 🙂 … Yamas! Enjoy what remains of your weekend.
Thank YOU, my dear friend!
I realize he’s not everyone’s ‘cup o tea’. I felt an instant connection with his paintings…
Wishing you a great week ahead. Hard to believe it’s Christmas week.
A wonderful and wide variety of artwork he produced.
This has probably been the hardest post to compile. Probably because I love his work so much. Glad you enjoyed, my friend!