Klee Paul

Berne, Switzerland

18.12.1879 - 29.06.1940

Cartoonist, painter

Paul Klee was born in Switzerland. During the course of his career, he not only participated in various art movements, but he was also one of the leading forces in many of these movements. Some of the forms he worked on during his career include expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. During the later portion of his career, he also worked as an art instructor for some time, prior to the Nazi rule removing him from his post; at this point, he and his family fled Germany, and went back to Switzerland, where Paul Klee remained until he died several years later.
As the son of a professional violinist, early in his childhood Paul Klee took a liking to music, and was quite talented in music. In fact, at the age of 11, he received an invitation to be a part of the Bern Music Association, for the work he was doing, and his exceptional talent in music. Early on during his teen years, his attention turned from music, towards the visual art forms. By 1898, Paul Klee was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, located in Munich.
By the year 1905, it was clear that Paul Klee had developed his own unique style in art; One such signature technique that he had mastered, was drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass, to create magnificent depth and texture to the pieces he would design. From 1903 to 1905, he had completed a set of etchings, which was titled Inventions, and this came to be the first exhibit that he was a part of, presenting the pieces that were in this short series of etched work.
In 1906, Paul Klee married Lily Stumpf, who was a Bavarian pianist, and they had a child. During the course of the next 5 years, his work progressed to new forms of art which were being presented to the art world. In 1910, Paul Klee had his first solo exhibit, which took place in Bern. During this exhibit, he was required to travel to three cities in Switzerland, to present the work, and the new pieces which were created for this exhibit. In 1911, Klee met Alfred Kubin, who was an art critic, and he was in turn introduced to a series of artists and critics following this date. He soon became an editor for a magazine, and he began work on water colors, and color experimentation in general, for the pieces which he created. In the Quary was one of the art pieces that he created during this phase of experimentation.
In 1914, during a trip to Tunisia, Paul Klee had his first major breakthrough in the art world. He began to work on abstract art, due to the inspiration he had from the light exhibits which he viewed when visiting Tunisia. Upon returning to Munich, Paul Klee painted his first piece of abstract art, which was mainly composed of rectangles and circles, in a variety of color sequences and patterns blended together.
During the first world war, the work which Paul Klee was working on, further developed, and took another turn in a new direction. The work he did during this period took a change after the death of two close friends (Franz Marc and Auguste Macke). He created a series of seven pen lithograph works, which were a reaction to the loss which he had suffered, and the emotion that came from the loss of these friends and inspirations in the art world. In 1916, he joined the Germany army; he worked as a clerk, and was also in charge of painting the camouflage design on the airplanes that were to be used during the war time.
In the year 1917, many had begun to describe Paul Klee as one of the best young, new German artists of his time. A three year contract followed, with dealer Hans Goltz, and this brought upon much of the commercial success which Paul Klee realized during his career, and during this stint of time which was just after the war.
From 1921 to 1931, Paul Klee worked as a teacher in Bauhaus, where he worked with a friend, Wassily Klandinsky. In 1924, the two men, along with two other artists (Alexej von Jawlensky and Lyonel Feininger), formed the Blue Four. During a short period that the group was together, the four men toured to the United States, and they would give lectures, present the works they did, describe new art movements, and describe the type of work which they were most interested in during this period of time. They also held a number of exhibits during this time, and when they were touring different areas in the US, to bring more exposure to their work, and to the style of art they were creating in Germany. It was also during this period, Paul Klee also had his first solo exhibit which took place in Paris. He was well accepted by French surrealist painters, who took a liking to his form, and distinct style of work.
In 1933, Paul Klee began to teach at the academy, working with students on a variety of forms, and on the styles which were popular and which he toured with, during the several years prior. He only worked at the academy for two years, where he was removed from his post in 1933; he was fired when the academy was taken under Nazi rule.
In 1937, Nazi officials purged German museums of works the Party considered to be degenerate. From the thousands of works removed, 650 were chosen for a special exhibit of Entartete Kunst. The exhibit opened in Munich and then traveled to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria. In each installation, the works were poorly hung and surrounded by graffiti and hand written labels mocking the artists and their creations. Over three million visitors attended making it the first “blockbuster” exhibition. Paul Klee’s works were ridiculed in the exhibition as well as the works of Wassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian, and Max Ernst. Today these artists are considered masters of the twentieth century.
After being fired from the academy, Paul Klee and his family moved back to Switzerland, where he would remain until his death several years later. During this time, he was at the peak of his career and fame as an artist; during this difficult and tumultuous period, he was also at the peak of his creative output. He was producing nearly 500 pieces of art at this point annually (and created Ad Parnassum, which was considered to be one of his greatest masterpieces), and did so each year to follow, until his death.


Paul Klee, a Swiss-born painter, printmaker and draughtsman of German nationality, was originally associated with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and subsequently taught at the Bauhaus, the widely influential German art school of the interwar period. Klee’s diverse body of work cannot, however, be categorized according to any single artistic movement, or “school.” His paintings, which are at times fantastic, childlike, or otherwise witty, served as an inspiration to the New York School, as well as many other artists of the 20th century.
Klee was fundamentally a transcendentalist who believed that the material world was only one among many realities open to human awareness. His use of design, pattern, color, and miniature sign systems all speak to his efforts to employ art as a window onto that philosophical principle.
Klee was a musician for most of his life, often practicing the violin as a warm-up for painting. He naturally saw analogies between music and visual art, such as in the transient nature of musical performance and the time-based processes of painting, or in the expressive power of color as being akin to that of musical sonority. In his lectures at the Bauhaus, Klee even compared the visual rhythm in drawings to the structural, percussive rhythms of a musical composition by the master of counterpoint, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Klee challenged traditional boundaries separating writing and visual art by exploring a new expressive, and largely abstract or poetic language of pictorial symbols and signs. Arrows, letters, musical notation, ancient hieroglyphs, or a few black lines standing in for a person or object frequently appear in his work, while rarely demanding a specific reading.
Klee greatly admired the art of children, who seemed to create free of models or previous examples. In his own work he often strove to achieve a similar untutored simplicity, often by employing intense colors inspired by an early trip to North Africa, and by line drawing in the unstudied manner of an everyday craftsman.
Klee constantly experimented with artistic techniques and the expressive power of color, in the process often breaking traditional or “academic” rules of painting in oils on canvas. Klee also applied paint in unusual ways, such as spraying and stamping during his years at the Bauhaus. Keeping his work within the realm of the “ordinary,” Klee also painted on a variety of everyday materials, such as burlap, cardboard panel, and muslin.


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