Born. 18.12.1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland
Died. 29.06.1940 in Muralto, Switzerland
Expressionism, Modern art, Cubism, Surrealism,
About the artist
Paul Klee was born on 18 December 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. His father was a music teacher and his mother was a singer so Klee was encouraged to develop his music skills. In 1880, his family moved to Bern, and as well as normal schooling, Klee attended violin classes at the Municipal Music School. His violin skills were exceptional and he was invited to play as an extraordinary member of the Bern Music Association. Klee enjoyed writing and drawing in his spare time.
Pushed by his parents, Klee focused on becoming a musician. It was something that he didn’t enjoy as he did not like the lack of creativity. As an artist, he was free to discover styles and the new ideas that were being brought forward at that time. Klee’s artistic skills were rapidly improving.
Klee finished high school with just enough effort to pass the final exams. He was a great reader of literature and would go on to write about art theory and aesthetics.
He began studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1898 after his parents had reluctantly decided it was okay. His education in Munich did not go well and even after the third winter, he was beginning to feel despondent about his art and preferred to have a good time in pubs meeting women, and having affairs. He continued with his studies and eventually received his Fine Arts degree.
In 1901, he decided to travel to Italy with his friend Hermann Haller, visiting Rome, Florence, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast. He looked at paintings from past masters and was taken aback by the colours and their representation. The use of colour in all shapes and forms was too difficult for him to comprehend. Klee returned to Bern and continued to live with his parents. He took several art classes but spent a lot of his time on experimental art styles. By 1905, he was developing some experimental techniques, including drawing with a needle on blackened panes of glass, of which he produced 57 pieces. He also completed a cycle of eleven zinc-plate etchings called Inventions. He exhibited his first works but did not see himself as an artist. He spent more time writing reviews about the latest plays at the theatre and playing the violin in an orchestra.
Klee married Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf in 1906. They lived in a suburb of Munich, and while she gave piano lessons and occasional performances Klee looked after the house and worked on his art trying to find a new approach. Klee had his first solo exhibition in Bern in 1910, moving on to 3 other Swiss cities.
In the autumn of 1911, he made an acquaintance with August Macke and Wassily Kandinsky, and in winter he joined the editorial team of the almanac Der Blaue Reiter, founded by Franz Marc and Kandinsky. The release of the almanac was delayed for the benefit of an exhibition. The almanac was released in 1912 and presented their synthesis of international culture to the European avant-garde at large. In both the selection of essays and its innovative interplay of word and image, The Blaue Reiter Almanac remains one of the most critically important works of literature on the art theory and culture of the twentieth century.
Klee’s mind was opened to modern theories of colour. Robert Delaunay and Maurice de Vlaminck’s bold colours and a trip to Paris where he saw cubism and abstract art helped him to find his colour palette.
In 1914 Klee was impressed by the light and colour while he was visiting Tunisia. At this point, he realised that he was possessed by colour and that colour would always have a hold on him. He started combining colour with his draughtsman skills to produce works of abstraction favouring shapes and rectangular blocks.
World War I began and Klee was conscripted as a soldier for the Imperial Army. After his basic training had finished he was sent to the front. It was not long before he was sent to work at an aircraft maintenance company working on restoring aircraft camouflage and finally serving his duties as a clerk for the treasurer at the Royal Bavarian Flying School until the end of the war. During this time, he still managed to find time to paint and exhibit in several shows. His work was selling well and he was highly acclaimed by art critics.
In 1919, Klee applied for a teaching post at the Academy of Art in Stuttgart but was unsuccessful. Hanz Goltz, an art dealer, offered Klee a three-year contract. The income was poor but the exposure was good for Klee.
Klee taught at the Bauhaus from January 1921 to April 1931. A good position for him as he approved of a lot of their controversial theories and opinions.
Klee also taught at the Düsseldorf Academy from 1931 to 1933 and was singled out as a Jew by a Nazi newspaper. His home was searched by the Gestapo and he was fired from his job.
In 1933–34, Klee had shows in London and Paris and was delighted to meet Pablo Picasso, whom he greatly admired. The family emigrated to Switzerland in late 1933.
In 1933 He produced nearly 500 works before moving to Switzerland. However, in the same year, he was suffering from scleroderma. The disease, which made swallowing very difficult, can be followed through the art he created in his last years as he only produced 25 pictures in 1936. His health improved and in 1939 he created over 1000 pieces
Shortly before his death, Klee created 50 drawings of angels and a painting of a skull with the word death in the middle. He died in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, on 29 June 1940.