BIOGRAPHY PAUL KLEE – German-Swiss artist Paul Klee is an influential painter renowned for his innovative use of color. His works like “Castle and Sun”, “Senecio” or “Fugues en rouge” are the best known.
Paul Klee short biography – Born in Switzerland in 1879 to musician parents, Paul Klee was introduced to the arts (violin, drawing, painting) from an early age. Unlike his family, he abandoned music for pictorial art. However, he retains a strong link with musical writing, as shown by achievements such as Running away in red and Dream city (1921). He joined the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1900, in the same promotion as Vassily Kandinsky, pioneer of abstract painting. The two men befriended several years after their studies, despite the rivalry and artistic differences. At the same time, Paul Klee meets the pianist Lily stumpf, who becomes his wife in 1906. He travels through Europe once his studies are completed, notably in Italy, then in France.
Paul Klee has many influences: from Italian painters of the Quattrocento like Michelangelo to the French Impressionist movement. His first paintings are presented in Munich, with the group of artists Le Blue Rider, but Klee feels that something is still missing from his work. It was during a stay in Tunisia that he became aware of the importance of the choice of colors. His activity as a painter slows down when he is mobilized on the front lines of the First World War. From 1921, Klee taught at the Bauhaus, a post he held for ten years. His courses and his reflections on abstract art are a great success with students. Inspired by avant-garde trends such as cubism, Paul Klee creates paintings of striking originality, between suggestions, dreamlike and fantastic. Among Castle and sun (1918), Villa R. (1919), Senecio (1922), Eros (1923) or Variation, progressive pattern (1927).
Paul Klee also writes theoretical works on his way of considering the artistic discipline., like Theory of Modern Art in 1924 or Notebooks of educational sketches in 1925. Faced with the emergence of fascist ideas in Germany and the rise of the Nazi Party, hostile to any form of art deemed unconventional, he was dismissed from his teaching post at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf in 1933. He left Germany for Switzerland for good. A chronic illness is added to the trauma of exile and degrades his state of health. The canvases painted during his last years reflect this difficult evolution. The artist died in 1940, a few days before his application for naturalization to obtain Swiss nationality was granted to him.
Paul Klee’s most famous works
Castle and sun by Paul Klee
Completed in 1918, this 18.5 cm high by 27.8 cm wide watercolor is today one of Paul Klee’s best-known abstract paintings. Here, the German-Swiss artist uses geometric shapes in multiple colors to represent in a simplified way a fortified castle overlooked by a setting sun. The arrangement of squares and triangles gives the impression that it is a mosaic multicolored. Because of its playful nature with the recognition of geometric shapes and colors, this painting is particularly popular in nursery school lessons. A very similar painting, but with cooler colors, Shining moon (1919), takes up the composition and techniques of mosaics used in Castle and sun. The latter is currently kept at the Berggruen Museum in Berlin.
Senecio by Paul Klee
This oil on canvas measuring 40.5 cm × 38 cm painted by Paul Klee in 1922 is very largely influenced by the movement cubist. The artist has never hidden his interest in the favorite style of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The painting represents the bust of a old man, mainly composed of squares, ellipses and a few triangles. Shades of white, yellow, orange and red colors predominate. Klee also wanted to pay tribute to theafrican art, which he was able to meet during his few excursions to the Maghreb and North Africa. The painting also has another denomination in English “Head of a Man Going Senile“, which could be translated as” Face of a man in the process of becoming senile. “It is now exhibited in Switzerland at the Kunstmuseum in Basel.
Running away in red by Paul Klee
Completed in 1921, this 24 cm high and 37.2 cm long watercolor perfectly illustrates the love for music by Paul Klee. It represents a series of reddish geometric figures giving the impression of being projected to the right of the painting, as if they wanted to leave the frame. This illusion of movement is accentuated by the repeating patterns in darker hues, forming like a trail. The name “fugue“, from the Italian fuga which means” flight “, is taken from the musical vocabulary. It is a particular type of composition which, thanks to the techniques of imitation and counterpoint, gives the impression that the music and the song are repeated, as if they were fleeing.
Paul Klee had a particularly prolific career as a painter: he is credited with between 8,000 and ten thousand paintings, not to mention the many drawings and sketches. His favorite medium was watercolor, but he also produced a large number of oils on canvas. Most give pride of place to geometric patterns and the use of color, the latter which he considers to be the most determining factor in his painting. Among the most notable are Red to white domes in 1914, And there was light Where Once emerged from the gray of the night around 1918, and New Harmony in 1936. The last ten years of his life, marked by his eviction from the Bauhaus and his exile in Switzerland, marked a turning point in his art, since we felt that Klee was trying to innovate and renew his line with simpler forms. and cooler colors. Particularly in works such as Dance in the grip of fear and Insula Dulcamara (1938), but also in Blue night (1938) or Winter landscape (1940).
Paul Klee was just as fond of depicting animals, as in Fish magic in 1925 or Cat and bird in 1928, that plants, as is the case in Feather plant (1919) and Flowers in motion (1926). Klee is largely inspired by his travels to transcribe in his paintings the emotions he felt, for example in Italy with his Florentine Villas (1926). The excursions in North Africa and the landscapes of Tunisia are there for a lot, since it puts them in the spotlight in works like In front of the gates of Kairouan in 1914 or Egypt destroyed (1924). Finally, the painter seems to cultivate a certain fascination for mysticism and religion, which can be seen in particular through the recurrence of numerous sketches and drawings of angels, or even his watercolor entitled Angelus Novus (1920).
- December 18, 1879: Birth of Paul Klee
- Paul Ernst Klee was born on December 18, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, a small town located in the canton of Bern (Switzerland). He is the son of Hans Wilhelm Klee, music teacher, and Ida Marie Frick-Klee, singer. He also has a sister who is three years his senior, Mathilde Klee. Young Paul grew up and completed his schooling in Bern. He first followed in the footsteps of his musical parents by learning to play the violin at the age of seven. At the same time, his grandmother introduced him to calligraphy, drawing and painting. He failed during his first attempt to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He decides before trying again his chance to harden himself in the private school of the painter Heinrich Knirr, who subsequently painted the official portrait of Adolf Hitler.
- June 29, 1940: Death of Paul Klee
- Paul Klee died on June 29, 1940 in Locarno, a town near the border of Swiss Ticino and Italy. The artist probably died of a disease contracted in 1935 hitherto unknown, scleroderma. The latter had serious consequences on his state of health, for example on the state of his skin or his internal organs. He left behind his wife Lily Stumpf and his son Félix Klee, born in 1907, who began a career as an art historian. His grandson Alexander Klee, also known under the pseudonym “Aljoscha Ségard”, helped found the Paul-Klee Center in Bern in 2005. The ashes of the painter and his family are buried in the Schosshalde cemetery, also located in the Swiss capital.