Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, into a family of musicians and he, himself, was a violinist. This Swiss painter, water colorist and etcher, was one of the most original masters of modern art. His first studies in art emphasized anatomy and drawing, rather than painting and the use of color, therefore, his first important works depended primarily on the use of line. Klee once described his work as “taking a line for a walk.” From 1920-1930 Klee held a teaching position at the famous Bauhaus School in Germany, where he formalized many of his theories. Due to his opposition to the Nazi regime, Klee left Germany for Switzerland in 1933, where he spent the rest of his life.

Klee’s ideas were inspired by primitive art and simple drawings made by children and the insane. The fragmented forms of the Cubists’ art also fascinated him. Klee also gathered artistic ideas from the many trips he made abroad. In Naples, Italy he was greatly impressed by their Aquarium. The primitive natural colors and shapes of marine life appeared as a theme in many of his works. In 1914, after being exposed to the bold, vivid colors and strong light of Tunisia, he finally came to understand the nature of color and wrote in his diary, “Color and I are one. I am a painter.” Ancient hieroglyphics were incorporated into his extensive artistic language after a trip to Egypt.

Klee bended humor and fantasy in witty, imaginative works that displayed playful, almost childlike symbols and forms. Despite this playfulness, his art speaks of organization and restraint—much like the music of one of his favorite composers, Mozart. When Klee found that he was dying of a rare disease, the tone of his work was less light-hearted, even sad. This crippling collagen disease, scleroderma, forced him to develop a simpler style. His subjects became religious and mystical, perhaps expressing his own thoughts of death.

Klee was a visionary who chose to communicate that which was most difficult to understand and since he didn’t want to copy nature, was able to express his messages through simple symbols and lines. There have been many Klee imitators, but none have captured his refined, magical and hypnotic style. He passed away on June 29, 1940.

PICTURE ALBUM -This artwork illustrates the artist’s interest in hieroglyphics (The way Egyptians used picture writing). The figure on the left reminds us of Egyptian portraits. Like the Egyptian paintings, the head of the figure is shown in profile while a frontal view of the other eye is shown.

Picture Album has simple lines, simple shapes, flat color and an element of humor, which are typical of Klee’s style. Can you see the person holding a baby? Or is it a fish? We too use picture writing, for example, we draw a the symbol of a heart to express love or traffic signs to guide drivers or ZZZZ’s for someone sleeping.


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