Very cultivated man of the lost manuscript, his body of work is archaeological. Paul Klee was a pioneer of legend and storytelling. A fair number of his work represents humour, delicacy and finesse. His paintings are the expressions of unbounded culture: archaeology, the ruins and graphics. His theory: art is not a reproduction of the visible, it tries to define it. He paints, wide open spaces within each work of art; he creates the illusion.
Here is the first part of his biography
Paul Klee was born in 1879 in Münchenbuchesee near Berne, Switzerland. His father, Hans Klee (1849-1940), of German descent, is a distinguished professor of music atthe Staatliches Lehrerseminar (state teachers’ seminar) in Hofwil near Berne. His mother, Maria/Ida, born Frick (1885-1921), originally from Basel, is a singer and musician.
Klee, born German, applied for Swiss citizenship towards the end of the 1930’s. However, he was reluctantly granted citizenship a few days after his death.Klee produced his first drawing as a child with his maternal grandmother. Towards 1890, while still attending primary school, he plays the violin with the Berne Music Association. He will later hesitate between a career as a musician or as a painter.
1898-1901: Klee begins keeping a diary that he will finish in 1918 and will continue writing in at a later date. After obtaining his bachelor`s degree, Klee decides to move to Munich to study art at the private drawing school of Heinrich Knirr and at the Academy of Fine Arts of Franz von Stuck, a symbolist painter who paid much attention to the frames for his paintings. Kandinsky also happens to be von Stuck`s student, however, he and Klee will only become friends later on. During his free time, Klee attends courses on art history and anatomy and frequently attends the opera.
1901-1902: From October 1901 to May 1902, Klee travelled to Italy for 6 months. This trip was organizeddue to an artistic crisis and Klee`s interest in Renaissance architecture, Michelangelo and the masters of the Quattrocento. It is at the aquarium of Naples that he discovers an astonishing nature, one full with new shapes, such as the Nudibranch mollusk, which he compares to a sunken ocean liner.
1902-1906: Klee returns to Berne to complete his education. During this time, he will mainly produce drawings, etchings, watercolours and reverse glass paintings (1905-1906). While at home, he reads tremendously (Hoffman, Poe, Gogol, the “Elective Affinities” of Goethe, Baudelaire, Cervantes, Rabelais and many writers from the antiquity) and practices his music. He lives with his parents and has many commitments with the Bernese society of music. During various stays in Munich, he discovers the paintings of Blake, Goya, Beardsley, Ensor... While travelling with his friends Bloesch and Moilliet in Paris from May 31st to June 15th, 1905, Klee catches a glimpse of the art work of various impressionist painters without actually ever meeting the artists (he finds this impressionism very interesting and recognizes the sensitivity, he sets aside this viewpoint for a more theoretical expression during the 1910’s). During this time he sees the works of Toulouse-Lautrec and de Corot and visits the Louvre, where he admires the works of Rembrandt, Goya and Leonardo da Vinci.
1906: During a trip to Berlin he marries the pianist Lily Strumpf, the daughter of a Munich doctor, whom he had met during a previous stay in Munich in 1899. The couple settles in Munich and for almost 10 years, the money generated by Mrs. Klee`s piano lessons was their main source of income. Their only son, Félix, was born in 1907 (died in 1990). During this time, it is also Klee’s first involvement in an exposition at the Munich Secessionwith his series of 10 zinc-plate etchings called “Inventions”, infused with a satirical spirit and highly influenced by the etchings of Goya (“Caprichos” and “The Disasters of War”).
1907-1910: Period of important expositions in Munich of the works of Matisse, Van Gogh, Cézanne “the master by excellence”, and Hans Von Marées (1837-1887). From August 1910 to January 1911, Klee partakes in his first personal exposition which includes 56 drawings and watercolors at the museums of Fine Arts of Berne, Zurich, Winterthur and Basel.
1911: In February, Klee begins to compile a handwritten catalogue of his works. From this point until just before his death, he keeps a painstaking record of his artistic production. During this time, Klee makes acquaintance with the fantasy illustrator Alfred Kubin, of Arp, and the artists of the “The Bleu Rider”, Kandinsky, Marc, Macke, Jawlensky, Münter, von Werefkin and Campendonk. The name of the movement finds its origin in the works of Kandinsky and the colored horses of Marc, both a desire to forge ahead towards the unknown. This resolutely modern group puts forward the lyricism of colour and its powers, references primitive arts on all horizons, differentiates itself from the art of imitation, takes in consideration the drawings of children, mainly uses watercolor, produces many crossings between music and visual art (color being assimilated to sound) and seeks a new spiritual enlightenment. All the while, the group writes articles about music and the works of Schönberg, Webern and Bern that are published in the “The Blue RiderAlmanac” (May 1912) and during expositions where the works of Delaunay and Rousseau are presented. Sometime before the Almanac’s publication, “On The Spiritual In Art” by Kandinsky is released. Considered one of the most influential works of modern art, the theories encompassed within this work will be blended with the theories put forward by Klee, and this until the 1920’s. In the monthly Swiss magazine belonging to his friend Bloesch “Die Alpen” (The Alps), Klee publishes many critiques of expositions and cultural events taking place in Munich.
Tate Modern exposition in London: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-paul-klee-making-visible
Running exposition in Berne: http://www.zpk.org/en/expositions/actuellement/le-voyage-en-tunisie-klee-macke-moilliet-657.html
Paul Klee’s Centennial trip to Tunis: http://www.goethe.de/ins/tn/tun/kue/fr12413432.htm
Article by Christian Lassalle