Paul Klee A Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorous works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry, Paul Klee, b. Dec. 18, 1879, d. June 29, 1940, is difficult to classify. Primitive art, surrealism, cubism, and children’s art all seem blended into his small-scale, delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings.
His family was very interested in the arts. The jobs that Paul’s parents had were strange for 1879. His mom helped support the family by giving piano lessons. His father did the housework. He cooked, cleaned, and painted.
Paul’s grandma taught him how to paint. After much hesitation he chose to study art, not music, and he attended the Munich Academy in 1900. Klee later toured Italy (1901-02), responding enthusiastically to Early Christian and Byzantine art. Klee was a watercolorist, and etcher, who was one of the most original masters of modern art. Belonging to no specific art movement, he created works known for their fantastic dream images, wit, and imagination. These combine satirical, grotesque, and surreal elements and reveal the influence of Francisco de Goya and James Ensor, both of whom Klee admired. 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. The paintings of Klee are difficult to classify.
His earliest works were pencil landscape studies that showed the influence of impressionism. Until 1912 he also produced many black-and-white etchings; the overtones of fantasy and satire in these works showed the influence of 20th-century expressionism as well as of such master printmakers as Francisco Goya and William Blake. Klee often incorporated letters and numerals into his paintings, but he also produced series of works that explore mosaic and other effects. “Klee’s career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities – its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing.
Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of the time Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatial grandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood. Klee’s work did not offer the intense feelings of Picassos, or the formal mastery of Matisses. The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching around the edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps, transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee’s ideas about pictorial space came out of Robert Dulaunays work, especially the Windows.
The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in the watercolor washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular genius [was] to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world.’ After his marriage in 1906 to the pianist Lili Stumpf, Klee settled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art. His wife, Lily, gave music lessons, while Paul babysat their only son, he was a good babysitter. Klee painted in a unique and personal style; no one else painted like he did. He used pastels, tempera, watercolor, and a combination of oil and watercolor, as well as different backgrounds. Besides using the canvas that he usually painted on he used paper, jute, cotton, and wrapping paper.
A turning point in Klee’s career was his visit to Tunisia with Macke and Louis Molliet in 1914. He was so overwhelmed by the intense light there that he wrote: “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.” He now built up compositions of colored squares that have the radiance of the mosaics he saw on his Italian sojourn.
The watercolor Red and White Domes (1914; Collection of Clifford Odets, New York City) is distinctive of this period. His paintings and watercolors for the next 20 years showed a mastery of delicate, dreamlike color harmonies, which he usually used to create flat, semiabstract compositions or even effects resembling mosaic, as in Pastoral. Klee was also a master draftsman, and many of his works are elaborated line drawings with subject matter that grew out of fantasy or dream imagery; he described his technique in these drawings as taking a line for a walk. After 1935, afflicted by a progressive skin and muscular disease, Klee adopted a broad, flat style characterized by thick, crayon like lines and large areas of subdued color. His subject matter during this period grew increasingly brooding and gloomy, as in the nightmarish Death and Fire.
Klee died in Muralto, Switzerland, on June 29, 1940. His work influenced all later 20th-century surrealist and nonobjective artists and was a prime source for the budding abstract expressionist movement. “If Klee was not one of the great form givers, he was still ambitious. Like a miniaturist, he wanted to render nature permeable, in the most exact way, to the language of style – and this meant not only close but ecstatic observation of the natural world, embracing the Romantic extremes of the near and the far, the close-up detail and the “cosmic” landscape. At one end, the moon and mountains, the stand of jagged dark pines, the flat mirroring seas laid in a mosaic of washes; at the other, a swarm of little graphic inventions, crystalline or squirming, that could only have been made in the age of high-resolution microscopy and the close-up photograph. There was a clear link between some of Klee’s plant motifs and the images of plankton, diatoms, seeds, and microorganisms that German scientific photographers were making at the same time. In such paintings, Klee tried to give back to art a symbol that must have seemed lost forever in the nightmarish violence of World War I and the social unrest that followed.
This was the Paradise-Garden, one of the central images of religious romanticism – the metaphor of Creation itself, with all species growing peaceably together under the eye of natural (or divine) order.” Pail Klees Dancing Girl is a painting that he did in 1940 that stood out from all the rest on our visit to the Art Institute. Dancing Girl is a painting made up of simple short bold line strokes and a couple of circles to high light her head and hands. Done in 1940 Klee used a far-fetched medium for this piece. Dancing girl was composed on oil on linen and then glued on to a panel. As strange as it must seem it still has a strong appeal to it.
Dancing Girl follows the pattern of man of Klees past work. His work at times seems hard to explain but understanding to the mind. There are certain suttle objects in the painting that make it obvious that this is a girl dancing. One is the distinguishing fact that this is a young woman. This is shown by the 3 main lines that make up her body. Halfway down the middle line there is a curve that forms the shape of a triangle as well as her other leg.
Under the triangle on the background is a shade of red that gives the triangle and you the visual effect of her wearing a dress. The painting itself is simple yet dramatic as most of Paul Klees works were. The Background was a tealish green color with highlights of yellow around the circles to distinguish her hands and feet. What makes the main object stand out at the viewer more is the white highlight around the girl. This effect draws your eye to the center of the piece and then lets you wonder around the rest of the painting.
It appears as if he (Paul Klee) used watercolors and inks for this and implemented small pictures and childlike symbols to give it appeal. Klee valued the primitive look especially art of children. I believe that he envied their freedom and respected their innocence. . As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular genius [was] to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world.’ . “Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth,’ he wrote in 1920, ‘things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see.
Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other, latent realities”.