Paul Klee [1879-1940]

Self portrait
Swiss-born German artist

Paul Klee

was born,

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
Red Balloon

“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.”

In the Grass

“A line is a dot that went for a walk.”

The Approximate Man
Equals Infinity

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

The Castle Mountain of S.
Heroische Rosen (Heroic Roses)

Two Passages

“One eye sees, the other feels.”

Night Feast
Castle And Sun
Flower Myth (Blumenmythos)
Ships in the Dark
Nach der Überschwemmung

“When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.”

Ad Parnassum
Walpurgis Night
The End of the Last Act of a Drama

“Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off.”

Arches of the Bridge Stepping Out of Line
Tropical Gardening
The Bright Side postcard for “Bauhaus Exhibition Weimar 1923”

Architecture with Window
Rocks at Night
Singer of the Comic Opera
New Harmony
The Protector
The Idea of Firs
Föhn im Marc’schen Garten
Peach Harvest
“Or The Mocked Mocker”

“My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.”

Around the Fish

“A single day is enough to make us a little larger or, another time, a little smaller.”

Mask of Fear
Tale à la Hoffmann
Runner at the Goal
Fenster und Palmen
In the Current Six Thresholds
Historical Site
Portrait of Mrs. P. in the South
In Engelshut
Sixth Invention-Zwei Männer, einander in höherer Stellung vermutend, begegnen sich
Heroic Strokes of the Bow
The Sublime Side postcard for “Bauhaus Exhibition Weimar 1923”
Flowers in the Wind
Letter Ghost
Day Music
Boy with Toys

“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.”

Open Book
Die Vase
Magic Garden
In den Häusern von St. Germain
Fright of a Girl
The Angler
Comedian (Invention 4)

“To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.”

Red/Green Architecture (yellow/violet gradation)
Flower Bed

“The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.”

The Bavarian Don Giovanni
Errand Boy
Public Duel
Dance You Monster to My Soft Song!
Hat, Lady and Little Table
Tree Culture

“Nature is garrulous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.”

Horizon, Zenith and Atmosphere
Potsdamer Platz or The Nights of the New Messiah. Ecstatic Visions
Barbarian Sacrifice
Lady Apart
Girl with Doll Carriage
Dying Plants
Double Tent
A Pious One
The Saint of Inner Light
A Young Lady’s Adventure
Jumping Jack
Zeichen in Gelb
(From the Song of Songs) Version II
Before the Festivity
They’re Biting
Insula dulcamara
Flower Family V
Seaside Resort in the South of France
Burdened Children
White Blossom in the Garden
Ancient Sound
Tod und Feuer (Death and Fire)


Puppet without title – Self Portrait

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

András Schiff


J.S. Bach

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:


Be Safe

39 replies »

  1. 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.

  2. 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!!! 😉🤣😂

  3. 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! 🙏😊🙏

  4. 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! 🙏

        • 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! 😉 😂🤣😂🤣

  5. 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.
    Thank you!

  6. 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.

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