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Paul Klee

Swiss Painter

Paul Klee Photo
Born: December 18, 1879
Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland
Died: June 29, 1940
Locarno, Switzerland
Main
Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
Paul Klee Signature

Summary of Paul Klee

Paul Klee, a Swiss-born painter, printmaker and draughtsman of German nationality, was originally associated with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and subsequently taught at the Bauhaus, the widely influential German art school of the interwar period. Klee's diverse body of work cannot, however, be categorized according to any single artistic movement, or "school." His paintings, which are at times fantastic, childlike, or otherwise witty, served as an inspiration to the New York School, as well as many other artists of the 20th century.

Key Ideas

Biography of Paul Klee

Detail of <i>Hammamet With Mosque</i> (1914) by Paul Klee

When the Swiss-born Paul Klee visited Tunisia in 1914, he was looking in part for his "oriental" roots. The walls of the city of Kairouan so impressed him that standing in front of them, he famously said, "color possesses me..the color and I are one." Shortening his visit, he quickly returned to Europe to paint the works for which he became celebrated.

Important Art by Paul Klee

Winged Hero (Der Held mit dem Flugel) (1905)

Winged Hero (Der Held mit dem Flugel) (1905)

Klee was first a draughtsman before becoming a painter. The etchings in his early series, Inventions, demonstrate Klee's ability to manipulate line and tonal value to create a figure with strange and grotesque limbs. An artist's inscription in the bottom right corner of the picture explains the underlying concept: "Because this man was born with one wing, he believed he could fly. His attempts, of course, have only resulted in crashes and a broken left arm and leg." The strange creature could very well represent a kind of self-portrait of the typical progressive artist at the turn of the 20th century, perpetually pursuing his full potential while repeatedly struggling against public incomprehension or apathy.

Hammamet with Its Mosque (1914)

Hammamet with Its Mosque (1914)

The bright light of Tunisia inspired Klee to create pictures of colorful watercolor washes. The upper half of the painting is representational, while the composition of the lower half follows Robert Delaunay's proposal to use color and its contrasts to expressive purposes- here a juxtaposition of red and green patches in the manner of a folk textile, or other such popular craft tradition. Klee suggests that color, shape, and the faintest suggestion of a subject are enough to powerfully re-create in the eye of the viewer the actual feeling of repose that the artist experienced in the original landscape.

Affected Place [<i>Betroffener Ort</i>] (1922)

Affected Place [Betroffener Ort] (1922)

Created in Klee's early Bauhaus years, this piece shows a scene of ambiguous signs and symbols over a background of modulated purples and oranges. The various strips of color hint at a horizon, their horizontal emphasis counteracted only by the boldly painted arrow, which abruptly suggests something as ordinary as a road sign. Like the many gradations of color, the arrow generates movement, compelling the viewer's eye to the center of the picture. The influence on Klee of Cubist still lifes, such as those of Picasso and Braque, is clearly apparent: Klee suggests a motif painted from nature while also cancelling it, as though to remind us that this is no window but a kind of abstract sign system.

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Content compiled and written by Julia Brucker

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Paul Klee Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Julia Brucker
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 21 Oct 2011. Updated and modified regularly
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