Paul Klee Biography

Brief information

Born in Munchenbuchsee, near Berne, 18 December 1879. Died in Muralto-Locarno, 29 June 1940. Married the pianist Lily Stumpf, 1906; one son. Attended Berne schools; studied at Heinrich Knirr's School of Art, Munich, 1898-1900, and with Wassily Kandinsky, under Franz Stuck at the Kunstakademie, Munich, 1900-01; professional violinist with the Berne Municipal Orchestra, 1903-05; then full-time artist, in Munich from 1906; taught evening classes, Debschitz School, 1908, and associated with the Sema Group, 1911, Der Blaue Reiter, 1912, and Der Neue Miinchen Sezession, 1914; served in the German army, 1916-18; taught at the Bauhaus, in Weimar and Dessau, 1921-31; co-founder, Der Blaue Vier, 1924; Professor, Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf, 1931; returned to Switzerland, 1933, and illness caused him to spend time in sanatoria.


Major Collection: Berne: Klee-Stiftung. Other Collections: Amsterdam: Stedelijk; Basel; London: Tate; New York: Moma, Guggenheim; Paris: Art Moderne; Rome: Arte Moderna; Stuttgart; Zurich.

The Art

Paul Klee's creative spirit expressed itself in music, poetry, and the visual arts. As well as being a virtuoso violinist, his writings include his diary (1898-1918), letters, notebooks (The Thinking Eye), many essays, (Creative Credo, 1920) and lectures (Pedagogical Sketchbooks, 1925). His approach to art was a broad and encompassing one which attempted to penetrate the secret underlying rhythms of the creative forces of the universe. Klee's career exhibits a direct and deliberate development. His always personal approach remained consistent with his careful nature and reserved personality. In his early career a series of etchings show the results of intense observation that seeks to expose what lies beyond surface appearances through a meticulous and grotesque style. (Hero with One Wing, 1905, Art Institute of Chicago). A series of drawings for Voltaire's Candide (1911-12, published 1920) reveal his early approach was essentially that of a draughtsman. In these drawings the artist expressed a mocking humor with exaggeratedly nervous lines and spidery, elongated figures.

Between 1909 and 1914 numerous influences encouraged the development of Klee the painter. In 1909 exposure to the work of Paul Cezanne opened to Klee the world of compositional construction through plane and color. This direction was further encouraged by the inspiration of Delaunay and Cubism. The famous 1914 trip to Tunesia with fellow-artists August Macke and Louis Moilliet perfectly combined the moment of the artist's internal readiness with the exotic and colorful external stimulus, and Klee emerged as a mature artist. He was no longer limited by his proclivity to draughtmanship. His diary entry of 16 April 1914 reads: "Color has claimed me. I need no longer run after it. It has claimed me once and for all, that I know. This is the meaning of the happiest hour: I and color are one. I am a painter." As a teacher at the Bauhaus, Klee was in the position where he was required to consolidate and verbalize his thinking. Pedagogical Sketchbook expresses his method. He emphasized process over product with the idea that art must evolve. Imitating the process of natural growth, artworks must tap into the rhythms of nature. "Follow the ways of natural creation, the becoming, the functioning of forms. That is the best school. Then, perhaps, starting from nature you will achieve formations of your own, and one day you may even become like nature yourself and start creating." Art was for him a mirror of Creation.

KJee's approach was always grounded in nature, though never naturalistic. Stylistically his images often appear deceptively simple, yet that which corresponds with the seen is honest and frequently profound. In his search for a direct passage between deep feeling and artistic expression, Klee found children's art as a continued source of inspiration. He preferred to work in small scale, so intimacy often joined a lyrical and whimsical mood in his work. Even his most abstract works, such as Fire in the Evening (1929, Museum of Modern Art, New York) and other paintings composed primarily of horizontal color bands or stata, time and evolution are suggested.This document was written for art creation forever . com One is not surprised to learn that they were inspired by a trip to Egypt in the winter of 1928-29, where Klee was greatly impressed by the deep sense of archeological history that he felt in the mysterious, ancient environment. Klee's artistic intent was to reach beyond the seen and make a mystical connection with the unseen. His quest was to tap an underlying geometry, to touch the ultimate mystery uniting organic and cosmic process.

In his search for a direct visual language, Klee often used ideographs or symbols. Letters, arrows, musical notations, or crescent moons and stars take on deep significance. Settings, such as a garden, a mountain, or a puppet-stage, can range in content from the most lyrical to the most somber. Music and drama were often transformed into visual expression. Klee spoke of "polyphonic painting" where time becomes a spatial element represented by transparent color planes. Frequent representations of masks and clowns give the human element in his work a feeling of distance, comic or tragic, yet the sentiment evoked is no less real. These were the characters that helped him find a new balance between outer and inner reality. Klee sought a universal language which would speak to all times and peoples. Especially in 1939-40, with the knowledge of impending death, angels join the stage as frequent characters. Titles of his paintings were often a poetic amplification of the image. The back of one painting reads: "One of these days I shall lie in nothingness/Beside an angel of some kind." Klee was an artist of profound integrity. Strong associations in his life were critical, from his early involvement with the artists of the Blaue Reiter in Munich to his Bauhaus years and deep friendship with Wassily Kandinsky. In the 1920's his approach was even associated with that of the Surrealists in his insistence on the primacy of intuition over reason. "In the highest order mystery intervenes. Intuition is not to be supplanted" (Pedigogical Sketchbook). He could never be too closely aligned with a group nor could his style be described by any ism. In spite of his prolific artistic production and his writings, something about this artist remains forever remote. For Klee the artistic journey was focused on nature and nature's ways, but like a monk's, his was essentially an inward examination.