Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spotlight on Paul Klee

Who was Paul Klee? A man, an artist, an independent legend in his own time. He was born December 18th, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee near Bern, Switzerland. Well versed in musical training from both of his musically inclined parents, Klee was an accomplished violinist, but during his teen years his interest veered towards the visual arts. In 1898, he enrolled at The Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany and spent three years studying art there. During this early period, Klee created mostly etchings, pen-and-ink drawings as well as a number of caricatures. He was the first to admit though that the use of colour was something that he struggled with.

Woman & Animal - 1904
In 1906, Klee married and settled into the Munich suburbs where an avant-garde community thrived. While his pianist wife earned an income for them, Klee tended house and took care of their son, while working on his art on the side. He continued to create etchings and had his first exhibition in Bern in 1910. A turning point in his artistic career came when he met Kandinsky in 1911. This meeting was to begin a lifelong friendship for Klee and an important source of encouragement and support for his artistry. He also met Robert Delaunay in 1912, who introduced Klee to a different take on colour with his vibrant usage of it.

Hammamet with Its Mosque - 1914 
It wasn't until Klee ventured to Tunisia in 1914 that he finally had an awakening in his exploration of colour. The light of the African nation helped him to embrace hues and tones in a way that he had never been able to grasp before. It also marked a break with his previous landscapes, as from this point forward, Klee explored the world of abstract art in a way that was all his own. He painted with an eye to the fantastic, in subjects that often had whims of fancy, personal interpretations and more often than not, a nod to his musical upbringing.

Ad Parnassum - 1932
While World War I reduced the output of Klee's artwork, it by no means ended his career. When he wasn't painting aircraft, he managed to create lithographs and his paintings sold well enough to make quite a name for himself. It was no surprise then, when he began teaching at the Bauhaus (a school dedicated to architecture, industrial design and arts & crafts) in 1920. He taught bookbinding, metal art, weaving, and wrote essays regarding colour theory during his ten years at this new-age school. He further taught at the Dusseldorf Academy from 1931-33, but the rise of the Nazi regime put an end to his time in Germany. He returned to Switzerland, but 1933 also marked the beginning of his battle with scleroderma, the disease that would eventually take his life.

Red Waistcoat -1938
Over his lifetime, Klee was influenced by Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism and of course Abstract artwork. What he accomplished surpassed all of these movements in a style all his own. His dry sense of humour and childlike perspective were evident in the more than 10,000 paintings that he created before his death on June 29th, 1940. The political climates that he lived through shaped not only his world, but also his canvases. The music that filled his soul could likewise be seen in his creations, as well as the influence of poetry, dreams and more. As far as mediums went, he explored oils, pastels, watercolours, ink, etchings and used materials such as burlap, muslin, gauze, fabric, wallpaper, cardboard, metal foil and even canvas. You could often see a mixture of these mediums, styles or materials encompassed in a single piece of artwork.

Click here for a one line drawing art idea inspired by Paul Klee.

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