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(1879 – 1940), Switzerland

Paul Klee Biography

Although Paul Klee is best known for paintings that integrate a range of early 20th-century aesthetics with childlike symbolism and delicate colouring—and for his talents as a Bauhaus theoretician and teacher—he exhibited an aptitude for a wide range of artistic disciplines early on. Born in Switzerland to musician parents, the young artist honed a passion for music as a violinist, occasionally playing in the Bern Symphony Orchestra. His secondary school was devoted to literature, and during his studies there he wrote poetry and dabbled in landscape drawing and cartooning.

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Of all his creative passions, Klee chose to pursue a tertiary education in fine arts. He travelled to Munich at the end of the 19th century for school, ending with an extended visit to Italy, where he became disillusioned with his classical education. Early subsequent works were caricatures; the 'Inventions' (1903—1905) etching series' 'Virgin in the Tree; (1903) turns the idealised female nude on its head by presenting a gnarled figure lying across a gnarled tree. Finding little financial success with these works, the artist began to experiment with the genre of children's drawings—looking at its spontaneity—and travelled to France to study newly emerging, modern French avant-gardism.

At the same time as Klee became part of the avantgarde Der Blaue Reiter—Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc's Munich-based collective—he became influenced by Cubism, and the final piece of the puzzle fell into place with a visit to Tunisia in 1914, in which a methodical approach to colour distinguished the artist from his peers. Abstracted scenes like Introducing the Miracle (1916) show Klee experimenting with a wide chromatic spectrum and the alternative representational perspectives Cubism offered. During World War I, he incorporated symbols of the political landscape in subtle, childlike demon forms, as in the fantastical Demon above the Ships (1916).

From 1921, Klee taught classes at the Bauhaus. In works like Static-Dynamic Gradation (1923), his interest in geometry and pattern during this period come to the fore, with a quilt-like composition of squares taking varying tones. With the rise of Nazism, his content developed a satirically political edge, as in Mask of Fear (1932)—painted on the eve of Adolf Hitler's rise to power—in which two figures hide behind a large moustachioed mask. Although the mask was intended by the artist to be a metaphor for art, it is not hard to simultaneously see the mask as representing the propaganda the Nazi Party used to gain power. Ridiculed as a 'degenerate artist' in Germany (having his home searched by the Gestapo), in 1933 Klee moved back to Switzerland where his health began to decline from the debilitating disease scleroderma, creating a new visual urgency aesthetically indebted to Cubist Pablo Picasso, with bolder strokes, such as the thick black horizontal lines of Heroic Fiddling (1938). The artist died in 1940.

There have been several large surveys of this much loved, influential, extraordinarily innovative, Bauhaus master. They include: Paul Klee 1879-1940: A Retrospective Exhibition at the Guggenheim (1967); The EY Exhibtion: Paul Klee—Making Visible at Tate Modern (2013–2012); and Paul Klee: l'ironie à l'oeuvre at the Centre Pompidou (2016).

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2019

Paul Klee Featured Artworks

Akte mit leiter ou Nudes with ladder by Paul Klee contemporary artwork
Paul KleeAkte mit leiter ou Nudes with ladder, 1912Chinese ink on paper laid down on paper
8.5 x 12 cm
Bailly Gallery Contact Gallery
Hart und weich II (Hard and soft II) by Paul Klee contemporary artwork
Paul KleeHart und weich II (Hard and soft II), 1937Charcoal on paper
34.5 x 40 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Seiltänzer by Paul Klee contemporary artwork
Paul KleeSeiltänzer, 1923Colour lithograph on handmade paper
43.8 x 27 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery
Eine Blume tritt auf (A Flower Performs) by Paul Klee contemporary artwork
Paul KleeEine Blume tritt auf (A Flower Performs), 1934Gouache and chalk on paper laid down on the artist's mount
23.8 x 30.5 cm
Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art Contact Gallery

Paul Klee Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Lìxià at David Zwirner, Hong Kong
5 May–5 June 2020 Group Exhibition Lìxià David ZwirnerHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Paul Klee, Late Klee at David Zwirner, London
6 March–31 July 2020 Paul Klee Late Klee David ZwirnerLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Paul Klee, Roland Kollnitz, Balance at Beck & Eggeling International Fine Art, Vienna
19 September–7 November 2019 Paul Klee, Roland Kollnitz Balance Beck & Eggeling International Fine ArtVienna

Paul Klee Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong

Paul Klee In Ocula Magazine

A Tale of Two Cities: the first Art Düsseldorf Ocula Feature A Tale of Two Cities: the first Art Düsseldorf By Stephanie Bailey, Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf, the capital of Germany’s most populous federal state and the economic heart of the Rhine-Ruhr region, has developed an identity as a ‘trade fair city’, with an excellent cultural scene that includes a long list of festivals and cultural institutions.

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Raqs Media Collective Ocula Conversation Raqs Media Collective By Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi

We seek to tap into subterranean and imperceptible forces, perceptional edges, hibernating conversations and interrupted journeys, as it leaps into heretical historical detours and speculative geographies

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Paul Klee In Related Press

Revisiting Britain’s Response to the Nazi “Degenerate Art” Show Related Press Revisiting Britain’s Response to the Nazi “Degenerate Art” Show 21 November 2018, Hyperallergic

BERLIN — In January 1933, the Nazis celebrated their first General Election victory with an elaborate parade down the streets of Berlin. After watching them march triumphantly through the Brandenburg Gate, the famous painter and printmaker Max Liebermann was said to have proclaimed, 'I want to throw up.'

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Realizing Paul Klee’s Influence on American Abstraction Related Press Realizing Paul Klee’s Influence on American Abstraction 8 January 2018, Hyperallergic

GENEVA — While teaching at the newly-established Bauhaus school in Weimar, the painter Georg Muche frequently heard thumping sounds coming from the studio next to his own. When he asked his neighbor, Paul Klee, about the noise, Klee confessed. 'So, you heard it?' Klee asked. 'I'm terribly sorry. I was painting away, and it was going very...

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The Tender Playfulness of Paul Klee Related Press The Tender Playfulness of Paul Klee 27 July 2016, Hyperallergic

PARIS — The key to Paul Klee's wonderfully shaped energy is not ironic detachment, as the title of the Centre Pompidou's current retrospective suggests, but rather the playful and idyllic emotion he transmits through masterly line and dusty color. There is certainly antagonistic intellectual wit in his brand of romantic spirituality, but I...

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