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An emblematic figure of the early 20th century, Paul Klee participated in the expansive Avant-Garde movements in Germany and Switzerland. From the vibrant Blaue Reiter movement to Surrealism at the end of the 1930s and throughout his teaching years at the Bauhaus, he attempted to capture the organic and harmonic nature of painting by alluding to other artistic mediums such as poetry, literature, and, above all, music. While he collaborated with artists like August Macke and Alexej von Jawlensky, his most famous partnership was with the abstract expressionist, Wassily Kandinsky.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 mars 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781781606285
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Author: Donald Wigal

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© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
© Paul Klee Estate/ Artists Rights Society, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world.

Unless otherwise specified, copyright on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.

ISBN: 978-1-78160-628-5
Donald Wigal

Paul Klee

1. Warning of the Ships, 1917
2. In the Quarry, 1913
3. In Front of the Door of Kairouan, 1914
1. Warning of the Ships , 1917.
Quill and watercolour on paper mounted
on cardboard, 24.2 x 15.6 cm.
Graphische Sammlung, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
“ We learn to see what flows beneath.
We learn the prehistory of the visible.
We learn to dig deep and to lay bare, to explain, to analyse. ” Paul Klee
In a collection of his writings titled The Thinking Eye , Paul Klee once asked his readers to take a “ little journey ” with him to “ the land of Better Understanding. ” He was speaking of the technical aspects of art, but the same invitation can be made at the outset of this brief profile of the artist. This book offers a little journey through the highlights of Klee ’ s fascinating life. It also visits Klee ’ s art in general, and detours briefly into the fifty-nine representative works of his that are reproduced here. (A complete list of Klee ’ s 8,926 works is in the Catalogue raisonn è Paul Klee .)
The Swiss-born Paul Klee (1879-1940) was one of the most inventive, witty, and imaginative of all artists. He was a master of fantasy, offering thousands of small but impressive works that consistently presented subtle wit and profound insight. His work is rarely mistaken for that of any other artist, yet – unlike many artists who find their niches then repeatedly visit it – each of his paintings has its own identity. He adroitly plays with the viewer ’ s senses, making his art ambiguous, yet nearly always understated. A major influence on the evolution of modern art, even as modern art in Germany was officially condemned, Klee did not subscribe entirely to any of the many movements of his day.
Klee (pronounced as ‘ clay ’ ) was born in M ü nchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, on 18 December, 1879. His father, Hans, was German and a music teacher at the teacher training college at Bern-Hofwyl. Paul ’ s mother, Ida Marie, received her music education in Stuttgart. His paternal great-grandfather was an organist in Thuringia. His most famous drawing from his earliest childhood is With the Hare , done at age five. Also when young he drew “ devils ” that he felt “ acquired real presence. ” Early in his diaries he remembered how the devilish figures frightened him so much that he would run to his parents for comfort.
However, the first signs of young Paul Klee ’ s artistic temperament were expressed not in visual art, but in music. The family supported the young man ’ s efforts to master the violin, which he played from age seven in 1886 until he was forced by poor health to give up playing in 1935. Like the great Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), he would play violin for an hour before each painting session. He likewise drew every day, as did Picasso and Matisse.
He played violin in chamber groups and in the local municipal orchestra even while he was still in school. However, the group was admittedly unpolished. Pablo Casals (1886-1973), the great Spanish cellist, heard the orchestra play in January, 1905. Afterwards he was reported to have said, in French, that it would be “ terrible ” to play with the orchestra. Even though Klee had that fine musical background, at age twenty in 1898, he decided to study art, not music, at the Munich Academy. However, throughout his life, music was essential. He was also a music critic for publications. In his diary, Klee often documented opinions on the concerts or operas he attended during his travels in Italy, France, and Germany.
2. In the Quarry , 1913.
Watercolour and paper mounted
on cardboard, 22.3 x 35.2 cm.
The Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Bern.
3. In Front of the Door of Kairouan , 1914.
Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Bern.
4. Untitled , 1914.
Watercolour and quill on paper,
17 x 15.8 cm. Kupferstichkabinett,
Kunstmuseum, Basel.
5. Red and White Domes , 1914-1915.
Watercolour on Japanese Vellum paper,
14.6 x 13.7 cm. Kunstsammlung
Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.
Around 1925, while at the Dessau Bauhaus, Klee met the composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). The artist apparently befriended the young composer and liked his chamber music. By then Hindemith had written a piano concerto and several songs, as well as over twenty major works for strings, including three of his six works titled Chamber Music .
Evidence of the permanent influence of music on Klee would run throughout his diverse oeuvre. Works showing direct reference to music include drawings in the “ Eidola ” series, such as the drawing of a pianist, or the works about kettle drummers. Several of his titles have music-related titles, such as Heroic Fiddling or Heroic Strokes of the Bow (1938) (ill. 59). Specific characters from his favourite operas and dramas appear in several of Klee ’ s works. See Genii (Figures from a Ballet) (1922) (ill. 24), and Singer L. as Fiordiligi (1923). In 1921 Klee painted Tale a la Hoffman (ill. 14). (One of the eight operettas by Jacques Offenbach (1819-80) was “ The Tales of Hoffman, ” published posthumously in 1881.)
In these and many other works, Klee seemed to see what he heard and heard what he painted. The elements and familiar traits of music (line, harmony, rhythm, tempo), as well as many of its forms (fugue, polyphony, and so forth) can be seen throughout his body of work. Sometimes the connection with music is obvious even in the titles, such as Fugue in Red (1921), Polyphonic White (1930) (ill. 52), Polyphony (1932), and New Harmony (1936) (ill. 48).
At least two of Klee ’ s early works remain among his better known: Virgin in a Tree and Two Men Meet, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank , both works from 1903. The odd elongated and emaciated bodies and dotted shading used in the drawings show the young artist ’ s search for distinctive style. However, small graphic marks in these early works prefigure his mature style. Even this early, Klee used strange figures whimsically as commentary on the human condition, almost always presented with subdued irony.
Klee ’ s work in general anticipated the surrealists sans explicit Freudian references. His work retains a spirit of innocence and gentle, sometimes ironic, laughter. However, Klee was also aware of the concept of the archetypes as developed by his contemporary, the renowned psychologist Carl G. Jung (1875-1961). Individual artists, more than movements, interested Klee. In 1900, at the Munich Academy, Klee began studies with his most influential teacher, Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), the German symbolist artist, sculptor, and dynamic teacher. Stuck ’ s students included Josef Albers (1888-1976), the founder of Op Art, and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), Klee ’ s friend thereafter. Upon completion of his study at the Academy, Klee toured Italy for a year. There Early Christian mosaics, Florentine Gothic art, and Byzantine art, and the fauna and flora of the Neapolitan aquarium enraptured him. The memory of the mosaics he saw during this Italian sojourn also would be called on after his later visit to Tunisia. Memories of such observations would appear throughout his work, such as in Flora on the Rocks (1940), and his many works with direct references to fish, from “ The Aquarium ” in 1926, and to Muddle Fish in 1940. The Klee work purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan in 1939 was Around the Fish (1926).
6. Once Emerged from the Gray of Night , 1918.
Watercolour on paper mounted on cardboard,
22.6 x 15.8 cm. The Klee Foundation,
Kunstmuseum, Bern.
7. Flower Myth , 1918.
Watercolour on canvas with mashed chalk
on newspaper. Musée Sprengel, Hanover.
8. Villa R , 1919.
Oil on panel, 26 x 22 cm.
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung,
Kunstmuseum, Basel.
9. Automated Astronauts , 1918.
Watercolour on paper, 22.5 x 20.3 cm.
Galerie Beyeler, Bâle.
Klee spent the years 1902-6 in Bern, continuing his study of art, specifically experimenting to discover his own style. Throughout his prolific life he continually experimented in painting on original surfaces, including cloth, blotting paper, newsprint (several works especially in 1938), and even cement. Park Near Lu. (1938) (ill. 56) for example, is on oil on newsprint on burlap. Several works are with chalk on paper in 1939-40. Unusual combinations of media were used on some of his most familiar works, including the very familiar Death and Fire (1940) which is with oil-colour and coloured paste on jute mounted on second paste-primed jute mounted on stretcher with original double frame strips.
The dimensions of the frames that Klee found during his semi-annual trips to flea markets would often determine the format of his work.

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