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Paul Klee: History of Life

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A Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorousworks are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry, Paul Klee, b.

Dec. 18, 1879, d. June 29, 1940, is difficult to classify. Primitive art,surrealism, cubism, and children’s art all seem blended into his small-scale,delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings. His family was very interested inthe arts. The jobs that Paul’s parents had were strange for 1879. His mom helpedsupport the family by giving piano lessons. His father did the housework. Hecooked, cleaned, and painted.

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Paul’s grandma taught him how to paint. After muchhesitation he chose to study art, not music, and he attended the Munich Academyin 1900. Klee later toured Italy (1901-02), responding enthusiastically to EarlyChristian and Byzantine art. Klee was a watercolorist, and etcher, who was oneof the most original masters of modern art. Belonging to no specific artmovement, he created works known for their fantastic dream images, wit, andimagination. These combine satirical, grotesque, and surreal elements and revealthe influence of Francisco de Goya and James Ensor, both of whom Klee admired.

Two of his best-known etchings, dating from 1903, are Virgin in a Tree and TwoMen Meet, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank. The paintings of Kleeare difficult to classify. His earliest works were pencil landscape studies thatshowed the influence of impressionism. Until 1912 he also produced manyblack-and-white etchings; the overtones of fantasy and satire in these worksshowed the influence of 20th-century expressionism as well as of such masterprintmakers as Francisco Goya and William Blake. Klee often incorporated lettersand numerals into his paintings, but he also produced series of works thatexplore mosaic and other effects. “Klee’s career was a search for thesymbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any otherpainter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities- its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity),he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many ofhis paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floatingletters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object,from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches,makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be apurely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of thetime Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatialgrandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood.

Klee’s work did not offer the intense feelings of Picassos, or the formalmastery of Matisses. The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching aroundthe edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps,transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee’s ideas aboutpictorial space came out of Robert Dulaunays work, especially the Windows.

The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in thewatercolor washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian RobertRosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular genius was to be able to take anynumber of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the earlytwentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, andtranslate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child’senchanted world.’ After his marriage in 1906 to the pianist Lili Stumpf, Kleesettled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art. His wife, Lily,gave music lessons, while Paul babysat their only son, he was a good babysitter.

Klee painted in a unique and personal style; no one else painted like he did. Heused pastels, tempera, watercolor, and a combination of oil and watercolor, aswell as different backgrounds. Besides using the canvas that he usually paintedon he used paper, jute, cotton, and wrapping paper. A turning point in Klee’scareer was his visit to Tunisia with Macke and Louis Molliet in 1914. He was sooverwhelmed by the intense light there that he wrote: “Color has takenpossession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has holdof me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I areone. I am a painter.” He now built up compositions of colored squares thathave the radiance of the mosaics he saw on his Italian sojourn. The watercolorRed and White Domes (1914; Collection of Clifford Odets, New York City) isdistinctive of this period. His paintings and watercolors for the next 20 yearsshowed a mastery of delicate, dreamlike color harmonies, which he usually usedto create flat, semiabstract compositions or even effects resembling mosaic, asin Pastoral. Klee was also a master draftsman, and many of his works areelaborated line drawings with subject matter that grew out of fantasy or dreamimagery; he described his technique in these drawings as taking a line for awalk. After 1935, afflicted by a progressive skin and muscular disease, Kleeadopted a broad, flat style characterized by thick, crayon like lines and largeareas of subdued color. His subject matter during this period grew increasinglybrooding and gloomy, as in the nightmarish Death and Fire. Klee died in Muralto,Switzerland, on June 29, 1940. His work influenced all later 20th-centurysurrealist and nonobjective artists and was a prime source for the buddingabstract expressionist movement. “If Klee was not one of the great formgivers, he was still ambitious. Like a miniaturist, he wanted to render naturepermeable, in the most exact way, to the language of style – and this meant notonly close but ecstatic observation of the natural world, embracing the Romanticextremes of the near and the far, the close-up detail and the “cosmic”landscape. At one end, the moon and mountains, the stand of jagged dark pines,the flat mirroring seas laid in a mosaic of washes; at the other, a swarm oflittle graphic inventions, crystalline or squirming, that could only have beenmade in the age of high-resolution microscopy and the close-up photograph. Therewas a clear link between some of Klee’s plant motifs and the images of plankton,diatoms, seeds, and microorganisms that German scientific photographers weremaking at the same time. In such paintings, Klee tried to give back to art asymbol that must have seemed lost forever in the nightmarish violence of WorldWar I and the social unrest that followed. This was the Paradise-Garden, one ofthe central images of religious romanticism – the metaphor of Creation itself,with all species growing peaceably together under the eye of natural (or divine)order.” Pail Klees Dancing Girl is a painting that he did in 1940 thatstood out from all the rest on our visit to the Art Institute. Dancing Girl is apainting made up of simple short bold line strokes and a couple of circles tohigh light her head and hands. Done in 1940 Klee used a far-fetched medium forthis piece. Dancing girl was composed on oil on linen and then glued on to apanel. As strange as it must seem it still has a strong appeal to it. DancingGirl follows the pattern of man of Klees past work. His work at times seemshard to explain but understanding to the mind. There are certain suttle objectsin the painting that make it obvious that this is a girl dancing. One is thedistinguishing fact that this is a young woman. This is shown by the 3 mainlines that make up her body. Halfway down the middle line there is a curve thatforms the shape of a triangle as well as her other leg. Under the triangle onthe background is a shade of red that gives the triangle and you the visualeffect of her wearing a dress. The painting itself is simple yet dramatic asmost of Paul Klees works were. The Background was a tealish green color withhighlights of yellow around the circles to distinguish her hands and feet. Whatmakes the main object stand out at the viewer more is the white highlight aroundthe girl. This effect draws your eye to the center of the piece and then letsyou wonder around the rest of the painting. It appears as if he (Paul Klee) usedwatercolors and inks for this and implemented small pictures and childlikesymbols to give it appeal. Klee valued the primitive look especially art ofchildren. I believe that he envied their freedom and respected their innocence.

. As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, ‘Klee’s particular geniuswas to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs andambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen intogrotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriateto the diminutive scale of a child’s enchanted world.’ . “Formerly we used torepresent things visible on earth,’ he wrote in 1920, ‘things we either liked tolook at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behindvisible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely anisolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other,latent realities”

Cite this Paul Klee: History of Life

Paul Klee: History of Life. (2019, May 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/paul-klee/

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