LIFE STORY OF PAUL KLEE
Paul Klee (1879–1940) was a Swiss-German painter who is considered one of the greatest modern artists and is known for his highly individualistic style. His work is associated with many art movements including expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.
Paul Klee was born in Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland, as the second child of German music teacher Hans Wilhelm Klee (1849–1940) and Swiss singer Ida Marie Klee, née Frick (1855–1921). His sister Mathilde (died 6 December 1953) was born on 28 January 1876 in Walzenhausen. Their father came from Tann and studied singing, piano, organ and violin at the Stuttgart Conservatory, meeting there his future wife Ida Frick. Hans Wilhelm Klee was active as a music teacher at the Bern State Seminary in Hofwil near Bern until 1931. Klee was able to develop his music skills as his parents encouraged and inspired him throughout his life.
Klee’s parents were both musicians, so creativity certainly ran in the family. Klee took up the violin and was so good by age 11 that he was asked to play with the Bern Music Association.
HIS PATH TO VISUAL ARTS
In his early years, following his parents’ wishes, Klee focused on becoming a musician; but he decided on the visual arts during his teen years, partly out of rebellion and partly because modern music lacked meaning for him. He stated, “I didn’t find the idea of going in for music creatively particularly attractive in view of the decline in the history of musical achievement.” He chose visual arts because he craved the freedom to explore radical ideas and styles. At sixteen, Klee’s landscape drawings already show considerable skill. He received a Fine Arts degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich,
MARRIAGE AND HIS EXPERIMENTING ON ABSTRACT ART
After receiving a Fine Arts degree in Munich, he got married and had a son. It was also during this time that Klee discovered he had passion for travel, and found himself amazed by ancient Roman art and architecture, as well as Tunisian art. In fact, it was while traveling in Tunisia that Klee was inspired by the amazingly beautiful colors which led him into experimenting with abstract art.
KLEE’S QUOTE: “Color has taken possession of me. No longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has a hold of me forever. Color and I are one. I am a painter.” This inspiration seems to have found its way into nearly all of his work, including this piece, “Red and White Domes.”
However, what impresses everyone about Klee is what he accomplished while serving in World War I in 1916. Even though he had to serve in the military, he was still able to continue creating. He actually converted a closet inside a small painting area just outside his barracks. Everyone is amazed by his incredible dedication. This pen and ink piece titled “Death for the Idea” is incredibly thought provoking.
When you see the figure inside the above picture, you can find him lying down, while covered in different types of lines. In the background, you see how these lines slowly progress from abstract shapes, then into what appears to be a city. Maybe Klee was asking what the real cost of war was, and what he thought countries were actually gaining from it. Klee continued to pursue a career in art after the war, and even held several teaching positions, including at the Bauhaus, which had to be an awesome experience.
During the year 1933, Klee created nearly 500 pieces of artwork. This passion to create reminds everyone of Van Gogh’s intensity. It’s a great reminder that an artist often has to create hundreds of paintings to find the few that remain timeless. We see only about 10% of the work an artist creates, but it took the other 90% to get there.
SOME OF HIS FAMOUS WORKS ARE:
Ad Parnassum, Twittering Machine, Fish Magic, Landscape with Yellow Birds, Angelus Novus, Cat and Bird, Struck from the list, Insula Dulcamara, Death and Fire, Flower and Myth.
In 1940, when his awareness of approaching death became strong, he produced his final series of drawings, eight images called Detailed Passion (De´taillierte Passion) that sympathetically reflected ‘‘the sufferings of mankind’’.
At the beginning of that year (2nd January), he had written to his friend Will Grohmann for the first time about his imminent death, using the term ‘‘tragic’’ to characterize the direction that his art works were taking:
He wrote: ‘‘Naturally, it is not sheer accident that I am in the tragic vein, so many drawings point in that direction and say, ‘The time has come’.’’
After the experience of his own sufferings, first those inflicted by a society that rejected him and then those brought on by natural causes, his sense of humanity became more immediate, more open to the acknowledgment and acceptance of other individuals who also suffered in their own unique ways.
After being an extreme misanthrope in his early adult years, he developed an attitude of cosmic indifference towards humanity during his illness.
The artist created only 25 works the year after he fell ill, but his creativity resurged in 1937 and increased to a record 1,253 works in 1939. His late works dealt with the grief, pain, resilience, and acceptance of approaching death.
Unfortunately in 1933, Klee started feeling symptoms of a terrible disease called Scleroderma, which slowly hardens the skin. And for Klee, it made it very difficult to swallow. Despite feeling terrible, he continued to create. His condition continued to get worse, until his death in 1940, at the young age of 60. He died in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, on 29 June 1940 without having obtained Swiss citizenship, despite his birth in that country. His art work was considered too revolutionary, even degenerate, by the Swiss authorities, but eventually they accepted his request six days after his death.
Amazingly, Klee was able to produce some 9,000 artworks, consisting of paintings, etchings, and sketches primarily. He stands as one incredible example of pushing the limits, working hard and never quit creating. Here is one of Klee’s famous quote: “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”
Klee’s artistic legacy has been immense, even if many of his successors have not referenced his work openly as an apparent source or influence.
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