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Paul Klee Artist Biography

The Swiss-born artist Paul Klee is known for his simple stick figures, moon faces, quilts of colour and childlike yet deeply meditative paintings. He participated and was influence by a range of 20th century artistic movements, including Surrealism, Cubism and Expressionism. Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Mnchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, the second child of Hans Klee, a German music teacher. As a child he was accomplished not only in painting, but also in writing and music. He began his training as a painter in 1898 when he went to Munich to study drawing and painting for three years. His early works are mostly etchings and pen-and-ink drawings which reveal the influence of Francsico de Goya. By 1905, he had developed signature techniques, such as drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass. In 1911, Klee returned to Munich and became deeply involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, which had been founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc that year. Kandinsky and Klee became lifelong friends and the older artist was a great source of encouragement for him. Klee was also influence by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and George Braque, and the abstract colour planes of Robert Delaunay. 1914 marked a turning point in Klees life and career when he visited Tunisia. The African light awakened his sense of colour and during his stay he gradually detached colour from physical description, giving him the final push toward abstraction. He wrote, Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. This is the significance of this blessed moment. Colour and I are one. I am a painter. By 1915, Klee was using abstracted forms and symbols to express diverse subjects from poetry, music, literature and his imagination. His expressive poetic language of pictorial symbols included arrows, letters, musical notation, ancient hieroglyphs and black lines. His subjects reveal his inclination toward the fantastic and the meditative, as well as his impish humour. During his lifetime, the Surrealists found Klee's experimental techniques suggestive of the way the mind combines disparate objects in dream states. In 1920, Walter Gropius invited Klee to join the faculty of the Bauhaus school of architecture and industrial design, where his friend Wassily Kandinsky was also a faculty member. Nearly half of Klee's near 10,000 works were produced during the ten years he taught at the Bauhaus. Klee was a musician for most of his life and would often practice the violin as a warm-up for painting. In his lectures at the Bauhaus, he would describe the analogies between music and visual art, comparing the visual rhythm in drawings to the structural, percussive rhythms of a musical composition by Johann Sebastian Bach. Klee began teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dsseldorf in 1931, but he was dismissed from this position under Nazi rule. When the Nazis declared Klee's art "degenerate" in 1933, he returned to his native Bern. Personal hardship and the increasing gravity of the political situation in Europe are reflected in the sombre tones of his late work. Paul Klee died on June 29th, 1940. His reputation grew considerably in the 1950s and his use of signs and symbols was of particular interest to the artists of New York School, who were exploring mythology, the unconscious and primitivism in their art. Klee's use of colour as an expressive medium of human emotion was also highly influential to Colour Field painters, such as Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler. "Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are other, more latent realities..." (Paul Klee)

More art prints from Paul Klee

Nordsee Insel Hauser, 1923 By Paul Klee
Cityscape with Yellow Windows By Paul Klee
Window, 1917-1919 By Paul Klee
Der Kunftige (Arrival of the Bridegroom), 1933 By Paul Klee
Landschaft Mit Sonne By Paul Klee
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