Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Paul Klee

 Dream City, 1921

From the Met's website: Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, the second child of Hans Klee, a German music teacher, and a Swiss mother. His training as a painter began in 1898 when he studied drawing and painting in Munich for three years.

Red and White Domes, 1914

By 1911, he had returned to Munich, where he became involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Klee and Kandinsky became lifelong friends, and the support of the older painter provided much-needed encouragement.

 A Young Lady's Adventure, 1921

Until then, Klee had worked in relative isolation, experimenting with various styles and media, such as making caricatures and Symbolist drawings, and later producing small works on paper mainly in black and white. His work was also influenced by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstract translucent color planes of Robert Delaunay.

Hammamet with Its Mosque, 1914

Klee's artistic training, which began in 1898, can be said to have lasted until 1914, when he visited Tunisia. The light of North Africa aroused in him a sense of color, and there Klee made his now-famous statement: "Color and I are one. I am a painter."

 Twittering Machine

In January 1921, at the invitation of architect Walter Gropius, its founding director, Klee began teaching at the Bauhaus. When the school moved from Weimar to Dessau four years later, Klee and his wife shared a Gropius-designed faculty house with the Kandinskys.

Ventriloquist and Crier in the Moor, 1923

 During the decade Klee spent at the Bauhaus, he created some of his most endearing art works, including The Twittering Machine, Dance You Monster to My Sweet Song, and Highroads and Byroads. It is to the school's credit that they supported his work, since the philosophy of the place was to try and fit everything into a square box. The more precise the musical and mathematical formulas he devised for his work, the more the work itself took off in bizarre and unpredictable directions.
Klee at the Bauhaus:

In the late 30's, as the world raced toward war and Klee had to seek refuge from the Nazis by fleeing to Switzerland, his work, always visionary, took on tragic overtones. He was dying of scleroderma, a devastating disease which turned his skin into a kind of armor.

 Burdened Children, 1930

In the year and a half remaining to him--he died in June 1940 as Western Europe was being engulfed in war-- "he crowded in an amazingly copious and varied output, as if he were collecting all his baggage for the great voyage: more than 1,650 paintings, drawings and colored works all told. Many of them are full of premonitions, of his fate and the fate of the world." Robert Wernick

 In this work, he covered a sheet of newspaper with black gouache on which he then drew the outlines of the figure and of the crescent moon with a thick, soft graphite pencil. Then he filled in these forms with a thin white wash. It is the black ground peeking through the white pigment that gives this creature its ghostly shimmer.

 In spite of his success during his lifetime, Klee was generally regarded as a peripheral artist. It was only after his death that he began to receive critical acclaim. A careful look shows how enormous his influence has been in every "school" of art. But he never founded a school; his vision was too unique.

  "Klee's career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter 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 of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, 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 a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space." -

From Robert Hughes, "The Shock of the New"

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