Klee

Paul Klee (December 18, 1879 – June 29, 1940) was a Swiss painter of German nationality. He was influenced by many different art styles in his work, including expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was a student of orientalism. He and his friend, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, were also famous for teaching at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture.

Life and work

Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee (near Bern), Switzerland, into a musical family—his father, Hans Klee, was a German music teacher at the Hofwil Teacher Seminar near Bern. Klee started young at both art and music. At age seven, he started playing the violin, and at age eight, he was given a box of chalk by his grandmother and was encouraged to draw frequently with it. Klee could have done either art or music as an adult; in his early years, he had wanted to be a musician, but he later decided on the visual arts during his teen years. He studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. After traveling to Italy and then back to Bern, he settled in Munich, where he met Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and other avant-garde figures and became associated with Der Blaue Reiter. Here he met Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf, whom he married; they had one son named Felix Paul.

In 1914, he visited Tunisia with August Macke and Louis Moilliet and was impressed by the quality of the light there, writing, “Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever… Colour and I are one. I am a painter.” Klee also visited Italy (1901), and Egypt (1928), both of which greatly influenced his art. Klee was one of Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), with Kandinsky, Feininger, and Jawlensky; formed in 1923, they lectured and exhibited together in the USA in 1924. Klee influenced the work of other noted artists of the early 20th century including Belgian printmaker Rene Carcan.

Klee worked with many different types of media—oil paint, watercolor, ink, and more. He often combined them into one work. He has been variously associated with expressionism, cubism and surrealism, but his pictures are difficult to classify. They often have a fragile child-like quality to them and are usually on a small scale. 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 which he famously described with, “A line is a dot going for a walk”. His better-known works include Southern (Tunisian) Gardens (1919), Ad Parnassum (1932), and Embrace (1939).

Following World War I, in which he painted camouflage on airplanes for the imperial German army, Klee taught at the Bauhaus, and from 1931 at the Düsseldorf Academy, before being denounced by the Nazi Party for producing “degenerate art” in 1933. The degenerate art exhibit catalogues had even called Klee’s work “the work of a sick mind.”

Composer Gunther Schuller also immortalized seven works of Klee’s in his Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee. The studies are based on a range of works, including Alter Klang [Antique Harmonies], Abstraktes Terzett [Abstract Trio], Little Blue Devil, Twittering Machine, Arab Village, Ein unheimlicher Moment [An Eerie Moment], and Pastorale.

Another of Klee’s paintings, Angelus Novus, was the object of an interpretive text by German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin, who purchased the painting in 1921. In his “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Benjamin suggests that the angel depicted in the painting might be seen as representing progress in history. In 1933, Paul Klee returned to Switzerland; in 1935, he began experiencing the symptoms of what was diagnosed as scleroderma after his death. The progression of his fatal case of the disease can be followed through the art he created in his last years.

He died in Muralto, Switzerland, in 1940 without having obtained Swiss citizenship. The Swiss authorities eventually accepted his request six days after his death. When Paul Klee died at age sixty, he left at least 8926 works of art. The words on his tombstone say, “I belong not only to this life. I live as well with the dead, as with those not born. Nearer to the heart of creation than others, but still too far.” Today, a painting by Paul Klee can sell for as much as $7.5 million.

Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland

Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland

A museum dedicated to Paul Klee was built in Bern, Switzerland, by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Zentrum Paul Klee opened in June 2005 and houses a collection of about 4000 works by Paul Klee. Another substantial collection of Klee’s works is owned by chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi and displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Analysis

Pamela Kort observed: “Klee’s 1933 drawings present their beholder with an unparalleled opportunity to glimpse a central aspect of his aesthetics that has remained the possibilities of parody and wit. Herein lies their real significance, particularly for an audience unaware that Klee’s art has political dimensions.”[1]

Klee and colour

Throughout his career, Paul Klee used colour in a variety of unique and diverse means, in a relationship that has progressed and evolved in a variety of ways. For an artist that loved so much of the natural world, it seems rather odd that Klee originally despised color, believing that it was in itself, little more than a decoration to a work.

Eventually, Klee would learn to manipulate color with great skill and passion coming to teach lessons on colour mixing and color theory to students at the Bauhaus. This progression in itself is of great interest because his views on colour would ultimately allow him to write about it from a unique viewpoint among his contemporaries.

External links

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From: WIKIPEDIA

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