Paul Klee: A celebration of the artist and his works (Updated)

Around the Fish (1926) by Paul Klee. Courtesy of PaulKlee.net

There is one artist in particular, whom I would love to speak about him and his works. His name is Paul Klee. Basically, I’m starting to learn more about his life, background, artistic career and masterpieces.

He was a Swiss-German artist who is considered among the most prolific and influential artists of all time and also helped to enhance the Avant-Garde Art of the earlier 20th century. In fact, Klee didn’t belong to one specific art movement but he was extremely influenced by Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism.

Klee was totally determined to explore the colour and light within his works as he enjoyed experimenting with many sorts of colours, just by mixing them in a accurate manner. The artist has produced several masterpieces that were painted over burlap fabric. Klee did also came up with new tones that were applied into his paintings. He often incorporated humans, animals, still-life objects and even writing as focal points into many of his works. For instance, I can observe the way that Klee had transformed humans, animals and objects into abstraction (he depicted those forms as if were either triangles, rectangles, circles or peculiar, curvy shapes). Well, that concept, to me, it’s totally fascinating, especially in the era of the 1910’s and 1920’s, when artists had in mind this futuristic concept and applied into their works. His paintings are viewed as being very abstracted, surreal, charismatic, colourful, geometrical, whimsical, childlike yet evocative.

Klee once quoted about the incorporation of colour into his works ”Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”

Born in Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland on 18 December 1879 to German music teacher Hans Wilhelm Klee and Swiss singer Ida Marie Klee (née Frick). He also had a sister Mathilde Klee who was born in Walzenhausen (also in Switzerland) and passed away in 1953. In his early years, Klee focused on becoming a musician as he started taking up violin classes at the age of 7 and was highly persuaded by his parents whom also were musicians. He kept a personal diary from 1897 until 1918 and this has been a great source of study for students who had grasped several information about the artist’s life and thinking in regards his works. In 1898, Klee started his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under the training of painters Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. In 1899, Klee met the pianist Lily Stumpf and got married in 1906.

In 1911, Klee met expressionist artists, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alexej von Jawlensky and August Macke whom also were members of the art group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) alongside the Swiss-German artist. Klee used to exhibit with these mentioned artists throughout the 1910’s. In 1916, the artist joined the First World War, he worked as a clerk and was still working on his paintings.

During the period of the 1910’s, Klee had become immersed into French Cubism and in 1914, after a trip to Tunisia, he became very fascinated with the colour and light of the landscape, which he obtained the inspiration to apply these elements into his work. Later on, after his trip, Klee started producing Abstract paintings, which were made in a geometrical and quaint manner.

Once Emerged from the Gray of Night (1918) by Paul Klee. Courtesy of PaulKlee.net

These mentioned techniques are incorporated into one of Klee’s paintings, Once Emerged from the Gray of Night (1918). This piece was made by the artist with watercolour paints onto paper. The written words are overlapped with the colours. As for Klee, he was aimed to blend the letters with the colours and from there, the artist was also adamant to create shapes such as triangles and squares and eventually transformed the entire composition into a Cubist masterpiece. The colour palette within this work consists of blue, purple, yellow ochre, green, red, brown and so on. The work itself is telling a story, well actually, it’s a poem but it seems that there are two parts that are divided by a silver band painted in purple and it’s placed in the middle of the work. In German, this painting/poem is entitled Einst dem Grau der nacht entaucht. Klee had written the poem with black ink (it could be watercolour, I suppose) above the main composition onto the piece of paper. Its translation in English says the following sentences:

Once emerged from the gray of night / Heavier and dearer and stronger / Than the fire of the night / Drunk with God and doubled over. / At present ethereal / Surrounded by blue / Soaring over the glaciers / Toward the wise constellations.

He was also very eager to applying the aesthetics of geometry into his paintings, for instance, in Around the Fish painted by Klee in 1926, it demonstrates geometrical elements and conveys religion (the Holy Cross is evident in this work), politics and also astronomy (we can observe the depictions of the moon and possibly abstracted stars as part of the constellation). The shapes applied into the work are consisting of rectangles, squares, cylinders, abstracted shapes, a flag and an arrow (both of these objects are painted red). Klee managed to apply arrows into some of his paintings. The fish lying on the plate is obviously the focal point and it’s surrounded by the shapes and other objects as well. The palette applied into the masterpiece is consisting of black, red, yellow ochre, blue, grey along with some patches of white paint. Well, this work is precisely a concoction of Surrealism and Cubism.

From 1921 to 1931, Klee had taught art at the Bauhaus School at Weimer and Munich respectively. In 1923, Klee became part of Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), alongside Kandinsky, Jawlensky and also Lyonel Feininger. The four artists travelled together to the USA to exhibit their works of art in 1925.

In 1931, Klee was appointed as an art teacher at the Akademie in Dusseldorf, Germany and continued to work until 1933, when the Nazis forced the artist to abandon his position at Dusseldorf and emigrate to Switzerland with his family. Klee got very ill the same year with Scleroderma, a disease that affects the muscles and skin. He continued to paint until his death. He passed away on 29 June 1940 in Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland.

This legendary artist has produced over 9000 works throughout his life. His works are kept in the Kunstmuseum Basel (Switzerland), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) and the Tate Gallery (London). Paul Klee is remembered as one of the best modernist artists of the 20th century and all time.

REFERENCES

Paul Klee – Paintings, Biography & Quotes

Paul Klee Chronicle

Once Emerged from the Gray of Night (1918) by Paul Klee

Around the Fish (1926) by Paul Klee

Paul Klee – Artnet.com

Paul Klee’s Biography – Artnet.com

Paul Klee – Wikipedia