Sunday, 21 August 2016


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

Paul Klee, (born Dec. 18, 1879, Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switz.—died June 29, 1940, Muralto, near Locarno) Swiss painter who was one of the foremost artists of the 20th century. Klee participated in and was influenced by a range of artistic movements, including surrealism, cubism and expressionism. He taught art in Germany until 1933, when the National Socialists declared his work indecent. The Klee family fled to Switzerland, where Paul Klee died.

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, on December 18, 1879. The son of a music teacher, Klee was a talented violinist, receiving an invitation to play with the Bern Music Association at age 11. As a teenager, Klee’s attention turned from music to the visual arts. In 1898, he began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. By 1905, he had developed signature techniques, including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass. Between 1903 and 1905, he completed a set of etchings called Inventions that would be his first exhibited works.

In 1906, Klee married Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf. The couple had a son, Felix Paul. Klee’s artwork progressed slowly for the next five years. In 1910, he had his first solo exhibition in Bern, which subsequently travelled to three Swiss cities. In January 1911, Klee met art critic Alfred Kubin, who introduced him to artists and critics. That winter, Klee joined the editorial team of the journal Der Blaue Reiter, co-founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. He began working on colour experiments in watercolours and landscapes, including the painting “In the Quarry”. Klee’s artistic breakthrough came in 1914, after a trip to Tunisia. Inspired by the light in Tunis, Klee began to delve into abstract art. Returning to Munich, Klee painted his first pure abstract, “In the Style of Kairouan”, composed of coloured rectangles and circles.

Klee’s work evolved during World War I, particularly following the deaths of his friends Auguste Macke and Franz Marc. Klee created several pen-and-ink lithographs, including “Death for the Idea”, in reaction to this loss. In 1916, he joined the German army, painting camouflage on airplanes and working as a clerk. By 1917, art critics began to classify Klee as one of the best young German artists. A three-year contract with dealer Hans Goltz brought exposure as well as commercial success.

Klee taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1931, alongside his friend Kandinsky. In 1923, Kandinsky and Klee formed the Blue Four with two other artists, Alexej von Jawlensky and Lyonel Feininger, and toured the United States to lecture and exhibit work. Klee had his first exhibits in Paris around this time, finding favour with the French surrealists. Klee began teaching at Dusseldorf Academy in 1931. Two years later, he was fired under Nazi rule. The Klee family moved to Switzerland in late 1933. Klee was at the peak of his creative output during this tumultuous period. He produced nearly 500 works in a single year and created “Ad Parnassum”, widely considered to be his masterpiece.

Two years after returning to Switzerland, Klee fell ill with a disease that would later be diagnosed as progressive scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that hardens the skin and other organs. The artist created only 25 works the year after he fell ill, but his creativity resurged in 1937 and increased to a record 1,253 works in 1939. His late works dealt with the grief, pain, resilience, and acceptance of approaching death. Several of Klee’s works were included in the “Degenerate Art” exhibition staged by the National Socialists in Munich in 1937. The accusations against Klee's character and politics that had been waged against him in Germany complicated his application for Swiss citizenship in 1939. While he had been born in Switzerland, his father was German, which according to Swiss law meant that Klee was a German citizen. Klee died on June 29, 1940 in Locarno, Switzerland, before his final application could be approved.

Klee’s artistic legacy has been immense, even if many of his successors have not referenced his work openly as an apparent source or influence. During his lifetime, the Surrealists found Klee’s seemingly random juxtaposition of text, abstract signs, and reductive symbols suggestive of the way the mind in dream state recombines disparate objects of everyday and thus brings forth new insights into how the unconscious wields power even over waking reality.

In European art after the 1940s, artists such as Jean Dubuffet continued to reference the art of children as a kind of untutored, expressive ideal. Klee’s reputation grew considerably in the 1950s, by which time, for instance, the Abstract Expressionists could view his work in New York exhibitions. Klee's use of signs and symbols particularly interested the artists of the New York School, especially those interested in mythology, the unconscious, and primitivism (as well as the art of the self-trained and that of children). Klee’s use of colour as an expressive medium of human emotion in its own right also appealed to the Colour Field painters, such as Jules Olitski and Helen Frankenthaler. Finally, American artists maturing in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Ellsworth Kelly owed a debt to Klee for his pioneering colour theory during the Bauhaus period.

The painting above is “City and Sun” of 1928, which is a work characteristic of the artist. Geometric and strongly delineated, with carefully applied colour and almost reduced to an abstract image, the painting still manages to be representational with the title of the work being quote agreeable to the viewer.  On the one hand, Klee conceives an image that is an expression of his inner landscape, while on the other also showing a rather free form and playfulness typical of Klee’s style. Warm and cool colours, square shapes and solar rondel, resolve in a balanced and harmonious composition that is reminiscent of dream and fantasy.


  1. Who could not help but love this colourful painting?!

  2. Such a lovely, colorful work!
    I hope you'll come share at

  3. I love Paul Klee's work - his style just jells with me. Kandinsky is a genius, but I couldn't have one of his paintings in my house - his images are too aggressive to be a background:) Actually I came here for Tue. Travel - will come back later in case you'll still will post it.