Paul Klee
Overview
 
Paul Klee (ˈkleː; 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

, cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

, and surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

. He was, as well, a student of orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks
Paul Klee Notebooks
Paul Klee Notebooks is a two volume work by Paul Klee that collects his lectures at the Bauhaus schools in the 1920s Germany and his other main essays on modern art...

, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's A Treatise on Painting
A Treatise on Painting
A Treatise on Painting is a collection of Leonardo da Vinci's writings entered in his notebooks under the general heading "On Painting". The manuscripts were gathered together by Francesco Melzi sometime before 1542 and first printed in French and Italian as Trattato della pittura by Raffaelo du...

had for Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

.
Quotations

Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.

From the film Der Bauhaus, produced by TV-Rechte in Germany, 1975.

My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones.

Diary entry (Munich, 1901), 136, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 [University of California Press, 1968, ISBN 0-520-00653-4] (p. 48)

The main thing now is not to paint precociously but to be, or at least become, an individual. The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.

Diary entry (1902-06-03), 411

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

Diary entry (December 1904), 583

The beautiful, which is perhaps inseparable from art, is not after all tied to the subject, but to the pictorial representation. In this way and in no other does art overcome the ugly without avoiding it.

Diary entry (December 1905), 733

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

Diary entry (March 1906), 759, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918

He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise, i.e., cannot do something else.

Diary entry (Munich, 1908), 825, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 (p. 227)

Nature can afford to be prodigal in everything, the artist must be frugal down to the last detail.Nature is garrulous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.

Diary entry (Munich, 1909), 857, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 (p. 236)

All the things an artist must be: poet, explorer of nature, philosopher!

Diary entry (Spring 1911), 895

Encyclopedia
Paul Klee (ˈkleː; 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

, cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

, and surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

. He was, as well, a student of orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks
Paul Klee Notebooks
Paul Klee Notebooks is a two volume work by Paul Klee that collects his lectures at the Bauhaus schools in the 1920s Germany and his other main essays on modern art...

, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's A Treatise on Painting
A Treatise on Painting
A Treatise on Painting is a collection of Leonardo da Vinci's writings entered in his notebooks under the general heading "On Painting". The manuscripts were gathered together by Francesco Melzi sometime before 1542 and first printed in French and Italian as Trattato della pittura by Raffaelo du...

had for Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics...

, both taught at the German Bauhaus
Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

 school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Early life and training

Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee
Münchenbuchsee
Münchenbuchsee is a municipality in the Bern-Mittelland administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. It is famous as the birthplace of painter Paul Klee.-History:...

 (near Bern), Switzerland into a musical family. His father, Hans Klee, was a German music teacher at the Hofwil Teacher Seminar near Bern. His mother, Ida Frick, had trained to be a singer. He was the second of two children.
Klee appears to have been equally talented in music and drawing.
In his early years, following his parents’ wishes, he focused on becoming a musician; but he decided on the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

 during his teen years, partly out of rebellion and partly because of a belief that 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
Classical period (music)
The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or...

 and nineteenth
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 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.

Around 1897, he started his diary, which he kept until 1918, and which has provided scholars with valuable insight into his life and thinking. During his school years, he avidly drew in his school books, in particular drawing caricatures, and already demonstrating skill with line and volume. He barely passed his final exams at the “Gymnasium” of Bern, where he qualified in the Humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

. With his characteristic dry wit, he wrote, “After all, it’s rather difficult to achieve the exact minimum, and it involves risks.” On his own time, in addition to his deep interests in music and art, Klee was a great reader of literature, and later a writer on art theory and aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

.

With his parents' reluctant permission, in 1898 he began studying art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 at the Academy of Fine Arts
Academy of Fine Arts, Munich
The Academy of Fine Arts, Munich was founded 1808 by Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria in Munich as the "Royal Academy of Fine Arts" and is one of the oldest and most significant art academies in Germany...

 in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 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.” During these times of youthful adventure, Klee spent much time in pubs and had affairs with lower class women and artists' models. He had an illegitimate son in 1900 who died several weeks after birth.

After receiving his Fine Arts degree, Klee went to Italy from October 1901 to May 1902 with friend Hermann Haller. They stayed in Rome, Florence, and Naples, and studied the master painters of past centuries. He exclaimed, “The Forum
Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum...

 and the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 have spoken to me. Humanism
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 wants to suffocate me.” He responded to the colors of Italy, but sadly noted, “that a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of color.” For Klee, color represented the optimism and nobility in art, and a hoped for relief from the pessimistic nature he expressed in his black-and-white grotesques and satires. Returning to Bern, he lived with his parents for several years, and took occasional art classes. By 1905, he was developing some experimental techniques, including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass, resulting in fifty-seven works including his Portrait of My Father (1906). In the years 1903-5 he also completed a cycle of eleven zinc-plate etching
Etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

s called Inventions, his first exhibited works, in which he illustrated several grotesque characters. He commented, “though I’m fairly satisfied with my etchings I can’t go on like this. I’m not a specialist.” Klee was still dividing his time with music, playing the violin in an orchestra and writing concert and theater reviews.

Marriage and early career

Klee married Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

n pianist Lily Stumpf in 1906 and they had one son named Felix Paul in the following year. They lived in a suburb of Munich, and while she gave piano lessons and occasional performances, he kept house and tended to his art work. His attempt to be a magazine illustrator failed. Klee’s art work progressed slowly for the next five years, partly from having to divide his time with domestic matters, and partly as he tried to find a new approach to his art. In 1910, he had his first solo exhibition in Bern, which then traveled to three Swiss cities. The following year, he did some illustrations for an edition of Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

’s Candide
Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

. That year he met Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics...

, Franz Marc
Franz Marc
Franz Marc was a German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionist movement...

, and other avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 figures, and became associated with the art group known as Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter
Der Blaue Reiter was a group of artists from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and native German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and...

 (The Blue Rider).

On meeting Kandinsky, Klee recorded, “I came to feel a deep trust in him. He is somebody, and has an exceptionally beautiful and lucid mind.” The association opened his mind to modern theories of color. His travels to Paris in 1912 also exposed him to the ferment of Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

 and the pioneering examples of “pure painting”, an early term for abstract art
Abstract art
Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an...

. The use of bold color by Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay was a French artist who, with his wife Sonia Delaunay and others, cofounded the Orphism art movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. His later works were more abstract, reminiscent of Paul Klee...

 and Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck
Maurice de Vlaminck was a French painter. Along with André Derain and Henri Matisse he is considered one of the principal figures in the Fauve movement, a group of modern artists who from 1904 to 1908 were united in their use of intense color.-Life:Maurice de Vlaminck was born in Paris to a family...

 also inspired him. Rather than copy these artists, Klee began working out his own color experiments in pale watercolors and did some primitive landscapes, including In the Quarry (1913) and Houses near the Gravel Pit (1913), using blocks of color with limited overlap. Klee acknowledged that “a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of color” in order to reach his “distant noble aim.” Soon, he discovered “the style which connects drawing and the realm of color.”

Klee’s artistic breakthrough came in 1914 when he briefly visited Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 with August Macke
August Macke
August Macke was one of the leading members of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter . He lived during a particularly innovative time for German art which saw the development of the main German Expressionist movements as well as the arrival of the successive avant-garde movements which...

 and Louis Moilliet
Louis Moilliet
Louis Moilliet was an artist from Switzerland who was noted as a painter and stained glass designer. He was lifelong friends with fellow artists Paul Klee and August Macke, spending time painting and traveling with them in Tunisia 1914 and introducing Klee into the group Der Blaue Reiter earlier...

 and was impressed by the quality of the light there. He wrote, "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." With that realization, faithfulness to nature fades in importance. Instead, Klee began to delve into the “cool romanticism of abstraction”. In gaining a second artistic vocabulary, Klee added color to his abilities in draftsmanship, and in many works combined them successfully, as he did in one series he called “operatic paintings”. One of the most literal examples of this new synthesis is The Bavarian Don Giovanni (1919).

After returning home, Klee painted his first pure abstract, In the Style of Kairouan (1914), composed of colored rectangles and a few circles. The colored rectangle became his basic building block, what some scholars associate with a musical note, which Klee combined with other colored blocks to create a color harmony analogous to a musical composition. His selection of a particular color palette emulates a musical key. Sometimes he uses complementary pairs of colors, and other times “dissonant” colors, again reflecting his connection with musicality.

A few weeks later, World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 began. At first, Klee was somewhat detached from it, as he wrote ironically, “I have long had this war in me. That is why, inwardly, it is none of my concern.” Soon, however, it began to affect him. His friends Macke and Marc both died in battle. Venting his distress, he created several pen and ink lithographs on war themes including Death for the Idea (1915). He also continued with abstracts and semi-abstracts. In 1916, he joined the German war effort, but with behind the scenes maneuvering by his father, Klee was spared serving at the front and ended up painting camouflage on airplanes and working as a clerk. He continued to paint during the entire war and managed to exhibit in several shows. By 1917, Klee’s work was selling well and art critics acclaimed him as the best of the new German artists. His Ab ovo (1917) is particularly noteworthy for its sophisticated technique. It employs watercolor on gauze and paper with a chalk ground, which produces a rich texture of triangular, circular, and crescent patterns. Demonstrating his range of exploration, mixing color and line, his Warning of the Ships (1918) is a colored drawing filled with symbolic images on a field of suppressed color.

Mature career

In 1919, Klee applied for a teaching post at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

. This attempt failed but he had a major success in securing a three-year contract (with a minimum annual income) with dealer Hans Goltz
Hans Goltz
Hans Goltz was a German art dealer, known as a pioneer of modernism in art....

, whose influential gallery gave Klee major exposure, and some commercial success. A retrospective of over 300 works in 1920 was also notable.

Klee taught at the Bauhaus
Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

 from January, 1921 to April, 1931. He was a “Form” master in the bookbinding, stained glass, and mural painting workshops and was provided with two studios. In 1922, Kandinsky joined the staff and resumed his friendship with Klee. Later that year the first Bauhaus exhibition and festival was held, for which Klee created several of the advertising materials. Klee welcomed that there were many conflicting theories and opinions within the Bauhaus: “I also approve of these forces competing one with the other if the result is achievement.”

Klee was also a member of Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), with Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics...

, Feininger
Lyonel Feininger
Lyonel Charles Feininger was a German-American painter, and a leading exponent of Expressionism. He also worked as a caricaturist and comic strip artist.-Life and work:...

, and Jawlensky
Alexej von Jawlensky
Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky was a Russian expressionist painter active in Germany. He was a key member of the New Munich Artist's Association , Der Blaue Reiter group and later the Die Blaue Vier .-Life and work:Alexej von Jawlensky was born in Torzhok, a town in Tver...

; formed in 1923, they lectured and exhibited together in the USA in 1925. That same year, Klee had his first exhibits in Paris, and he became a hit with the French Surrealists. Klee visited Egypt in 1928, which impressed him less than Tunisia. In 1929, the first major monograph on Klee’s work was published, written by Will Grohmann.

Klee also taught at the Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is the capital city of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and centre of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.Düsseldorf is an important international business and financial centre and renowned for its fashion and trade fairs. Located centrally within the European Megalopolis, the...

 Academy from 1931 to 1933, and was singled out by a Nazi newspaper, “Then that great fellow Klee comes onto the scene, already famed as a Bauhaus teacher in Dessau. He tells everyone he’s a thoroughbred Arab, but he’s a typical Galician Jew.” His home was searched by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

 and he was fired from his job. His self-portrait Struck from the List (1933) commemorates the sad occasion. In 1933-4, Klee had shows in London and Paris, and finally met Picasso, whom he greatly admired. The Klee family emigrated to Switzerland in late 1933.

Klee was at the peak of his creative output. His Ad Parnassum (1932) is considered his masterpiece and the best example of his pointillist style; it is also one of his largest, most finely worked paintings. He produced nearly 500 works in 1933 during his last year in Germany. However, in 1933, Klee began experiencing the symptoms of what was diagnosed as scleroderma
Scleroderma
Systemic sclerosis or systemic scleroderma is a systemic autoimmune disease or systemic connective tissue disease that is a subtype of scleroderma.-Skin symptoms:...

 after his death. The progression of his fatal disease, which made swallowing very difficult, can be followed through the art he created in his last years. His output in 1936 was only 25 pictures. In the later 1930s, his health recovered somewhat and he was encouraged by a visit from Kandinsky and Picasso. Klee’s simpler and larger designs enabled him to keep up his output in his final years, and in 1939 he created over 1,200 works, a career high for one year. He used heavier lines and mainly geometric forms with fewer but larger blocks of color. His varied color palettes, some with bright colors and others sober, perhaps reflected his alternating moods of optimism and pessimism. Back in Germany in 1937, seventeen of Klee’s pictures were included in an exhibition of “Degenerate art
Degenerate art
Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were...

” and 102 of his works in public collections were seized by the Nazis.

Death

Klee suffered from a wasting disease, scleroderma
Scleroderma
Systemic sclerosis or systemic scleroderma is a systemic autoimmune disease or systemic connective tissue disease that is a subtype of scleroderma.-Skin symptoms:...

, toward the end of his life, enduring pain that seems to be reflected in his last works of art. One of his last paintings, "Death and Fire", features a skull in the center with the German word for death, "Tod", appearing in the face. He died in Muralto
Muralto
Muralto is a municipality in the district of Locarno, in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland.-Roman settlement:In the second half of the 19th Century, the ruins of a Roman settlement were discovered. However, all the items discovered in these early excavations are either lost or they are kept in...

, Locarno, Switzerland, on June 29, 1940 without having obtained Swiss citizenship, despite his birth in that country. His art work was considered too revolutionary, even degenerate, by the Swiss authorities, but eventually they accepted his request six days after his death. His legacy comprises about 9,000 works of art. The words on his tombstone, Klee's credo, placed there by his son Felix, say, "I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is as much among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, But still not close enough." He was buried at Schosshaldenfriedhof, Bern, Switzerland.

Style and methods

Klee has been variously associated with Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

, Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was a 20th century avant-garde art movement, pioneered by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture...

, Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.Futurism or futurist may refer to:* Afrofuturism, an African-American and African diaspora subculture* Cubo-Futurism* Ego-Futurism...

, Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

, 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
Oil paint
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the...

, watercolor, ink
Ink
Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing and/or writing with a pen, brush, or quill...

, pastel
Pastel
Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation....

, etching
Etching
Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal...

, 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
Mixed media
Mixed media, in visual art, refers to an artwork in the making of which more than one medium has been employed.There is an important distinction between "mixed-media" artworks and "multimedia art". Mixed media tends to refer to a work of visual art that combines various traditionally distinct...

 such as oil with watercolor, water color 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 child-like quality to them and are usually on a small scale. He often used geometric forms as well as letters, numbers, and arrows, and combined them with 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
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, music and dream
Dream
Dreams are successions of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not definitively understood, though they have been a topic of scientific speculation, philosophical intrigue and religious...

s and sometimes include words or musical notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

. The later works are distinguished by spidery hieroglyph
Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs were a formal writing system used by the ancient Egyptians that combined logographic and alphabetic elements. Egyptians used cursive hieroglyphs for religious literature on papyrus and wood...

-like symbols. Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

 wrote about Klee in 1921, “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.”

Pamela Kort observed: "Klee's 1933 drawings present their beholder with an unparalleled opportunity to glimpse a central aspect of his aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

 that has remained largely unappreciated: his lifelong concern with the possibilities of parody
Parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

 and wit
Wit
Wit is a form of intellectual humour, and a wit is someone skilled in making witty remarks. Forms of wit include the quip and repartee.-Forms of wit:...

. Herein lies their real significance, particularly for an audience unaware that Klee's art has political dimensions."

Legacy

As Klee learned to manipulate color with great skill and passion, he became an effective teacher of color mixing and color theory to students at the Bauhaus
Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...

. This progression in itself is of great interest because his views on color would ultimately allow him to write about it from a unique viewpoint among his contemporaries.

Klee influenced the work of other noted artists of the early 20th century including Belgian printmaker Rene Carcan
René Carcan
René Carcan was a prominent Belgian engraver and sculptor, who studied under Léon Devos, Jacques Maes and Johnny Friedlaender...

.

Composer Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller is an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, and jazz musician.- Biography and works :...

 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
Twittering Machine
Twittering Machine is a 1922 watercolor and pen and ink oil transfer on paper by Swiss-German painter Paul Klee. Like other artworks by Klee, it blends biology and machinery, depicting a loosely sketched group of birds on a wire or branch connected to a hand-crank...

, Arab Village, Ein unheimlicher Moment [An Eerie Moment], and Pastorale.
The German Ensemble Sortisatio
Ensemble Sortisatio
Ensemble Sortisatio is a quartet founded by violist Matthias Sannemüller in 1992 in Leipzig, Germany. Its members are mostly soloists at the MDR Symphony Orchestra. They have specialized in contemporary classical music.- Formation :The Ensemble Sortisatio was founded in 1992 by Matthias...

 together with the Swiss Groupe Lacroix worked on the project "8 Pieces on Paul Klee", based on the work of the painter. Another Klee-inspired work is Wingate's
Jason Wright Wingate
Jason Wright Wingate is an American composer, cellist and poet based in New York City. Notable works include the chamber work Landscapes of Consciousness, and the Symphony No...

 Second Symphony
Symphony No. 2: Kleetüden
The Symphony No. 2: Kleetüden; Variationen für Orchester nach Paul Klee by Jason Wright Wingate was completed in 2009 and consists of 27 movements, each depicting a painting or drawing by Paul Klee...

, subtitled Kleetüden
Symphony No. 2: Kleetüden
The Symphony No. 2: Kleetüden; Variationen für Orchester nach Paul Klee by Jason Wright Wingate was completed in 2009 and consists of 27 movements, each depicting a painting or drawing by Paul Klee...

; Variationen für Orchester nach Paul Klee (Variations for Orchestra after Paul Klee) which consists of 27 tone paintings in homage to Klee. The Spanish composer Benet Casablancas
Benet Casablancas
Benet Casablancas is a Spanish composer and musicologist.- Biography :Casablancas started to study music in Barcelona and then moved to Vienna, where he attended lessons in the Vienna Academy of Music with Friedrich Cerha and Karl Heinz Füssl...

's symphonic work Alter Klang. Impromptu for orchestra after Klee, based on Klee's painting of the same title, was commissioned by Orquesta Nacional de España
Orquesta Nacional de España
The Orquesta Nacional de España is a symphonic orchestra based in Madrid, Spain.-History:Although working since in 1937 during the Spanish civil war, the orchestra was legally founded in 1940, by the merging of the Perez Casas' Filarmónica and the Orquesta Sinfónica of Arbós...

, which prémièred it in 2007 under the baton of Josep Pons
Josep Pons
Josep Pons is a Spanish conductor. He is the current conductor of the Spanish National Orchestra.-External links:**...

. This is not the only piece by Casablancas that is inspired by Klee; in 2007 he composed a chamber cantata Retablo sobre textos de Paul Klee, for soprano, mezzosoprano and piano, commissioned by Fundación Canal in Madrid. Well into 2011, more than 800 pieces of music, in virtually all genres, are known to have been inspired by Klee's artwork, and sometimes by his words. This is far more music than has been inspired by any other artist.

One of Klee's paintings, Angelus Novus
Angelus Novus
Angelus Novus is a Cooper etching plate, Intaglio printing with acidic watercolor on drypoint by Paul Klee, painted in 1920, and now in the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem....

, was the object of an interpretive text by German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

, 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 the angel of history.

In the late sixties, the psychedelic nature of Klee's pieces was revived musically by a group (including jazz composer Chuck Mangione
Chuck Mangione
Charles Frank "Chuck" Mangione is an American flugelhorn player and composer who achieved international success in 1977 with his jazz-pop single, "Feels So Good." Mangione has released more than thirty albums since 1960.-Early life and career:...

), The National Gallery released the album Performing Musical Interpretations of the Paintings of Paul Klee in 1968, with music and lyrics that are appropriately surprising, strange, and delightful.

Today, a painting by Klee can sell for as much as $
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

7.5 million.

A museum dedicated to Klee was built in Bern, Switzerland, by the Italian architect Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano is an Italian architect. He is the recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, AIA Gold Medal, Kyoto Prize and the Sonning Prize...

. Zentrum Paul Klee
Zentrum Paul Klee
The Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to the artist Paul Klee, located in Bern, Switzerland and designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. It features about 40 percent of Paul Klee’s entire pictorial oeuvre....

 opened in June 2005 and houses a collection of about 4,000 works by Paul Klee. Another substantial collection of Klee's works is owned by chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi
Carl Djerassi
Carl Djerassi is an Austrian-American chemist, novelist, and playwright best known for his contribution to the development of the first oral contraceptive pill . Djerassi is emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University.He participated in the invention in 1951, together with Mexican Luis E...

 and displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a modern art museum located in San Francisco, California. A nonprofit organization, SFMOMA holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th century art...

.

The 2005 bottling of Kenwood Vineyards "Artist Series" Cabernet Sauvignon reproduces Klee's "Highway and Byways" (1929) on the label.

Footnotes

Paul Klee's father was a German citizen; his mother was Swiss. Swiss law determined citizenship along paternal lines, and thus Paul inherited his father's German citizenship. He served in the German army during World War I. However, Klee grew up in Berne, Switzerland, and returned there often, even before his final emigration from Germany in 1933. He died before his application for Swiss citizenship was processed.

Books, essays and lectures by Paul Klee

  • 1922 Beiträge zur bildnerischen Formlehre ('Contributions to a pictorial theory of form', part of his 1921-2 lectures at the Bauhaus)
  • 1923 Wege des Naturstudiums ('Ways of Studying Nature'), 4 pages. Published in the catalogue for the Erste Bauhaus Ausstellung (First Bauhaus Exhibition) in Summer 1923. Also published in Paul Klee Notebooks vol 1.
  • 1924 Über moderne Kunst ('On Modern Art'), lecture held at Paul Klee's exhibition at the Kunstverein in Jena on 26 January 1924
  • 1924 Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch ('Pedagogical Sketchbook')
  • 1949 Documente und Bilder aus den Jahren 1896–1930, ('Documents and images from the years 1896–1930'), Berne, Benteli
  • 1956 Graphik, ('Graphics'), Berne, Klipstein & Kornfeld
  • 1956 Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre ('Writings on form and design theory') edited by Jürg Spiller (English edition: 'Paul Klee Notebooks')
    • 1956 Band I: Das bildnerische Denken., ('Volume I: the creative thinking'). 572 pages review. (English translation from German by Ralph Manheim: 'The thinking eye')
    • 1964 Band 2: Unendliche Naturgeschichte ('Volume 2: Infinite Natural History') (English translation from German by Heinz Norden: 'The Nature of Nature')
  • 1964 The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898–1918 ed. Felix Klee Berkley, University of California
  • 1976 Schriften, Rezensionen und Aufsätze edited by Ch. Geelhaar, Köln,
  • 1960 Gedichte, poems, edited by Felix Klee
  • 1962 Some poems by Paul Klee ed Anselm Hollo. London

Further reading

  • Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. 9 vols. Edited by the Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. New York: Thames & Hudson
    Thames & Hudson
    Thames & Hudson is a publisher of illustrated books on art, architecture, design, and visual culture. With its headquarters in London, England it has a sister company in New York and subsidiaries in Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong...

    , 1998–2004.
  • Paul Klee: 1933 published by Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Helmut Friedel. Contains essays in German by Pamela Kort, Osamu Okuda, and Otto Karl Werckmeister.
  • Reto Sorg und Osamu Okuda: Die satirische Muse – Hans Bloesch, Paul Klee und das Editionsprojekt Der Musterbürger. ZIP Zürich 2005 (Klee-Studien; 2), ISBN 3909252079
  • Otto Karl Werckmeister: The Making of Paul Klee's Career, 1914–1920. University of Chicago Press
    University of Chicago Press
    The University of Chicago Press is the largest university press in the United States. It is operated by the University of Chicago and publishes a wide variety of academic titles, including The Chicago Manual of Style, dozens of academic journals, including Critical Inquiry, and a wide array of...

    , 343 pages, 125 halftones, 1984, 1989.
  • Marcel Franciscono: Paul Klee: His Work and Thought. University Of Chicago Press, 406 pages, 1991, ISBN 0226259900.
  • Wilhelm Hausenstein (1921) Kairuan oder eine Geschichte vom Maler Klee und von der Kunst dieses Zeitalters ('Kairuan or a History of the Artist Klee and the Art of this Age')

External links

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