Paul Klee: Swiss? or German?

Paul Klee was born in 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and grew up within a family of musicians. Instead of following his musical roots he chose to study art at the Munich Academy. However, his childhood love of music always remained important in his life and work.

In 1911, Klee met Alexej Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke , Franz Marc , and other avant-garde figures and participated in important shows of avant-garde art, including the second Blaue Reiter exhibition at Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, in 1912.

Paul Klee , Red and White Domes, 1914-15. Watercolour on Japanese Vellum. 14.6 x 13.7 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen , Duesseldorf, Germany

Primitive art, Surrealism and Cubism, all seem blended into his small-scale, delicate paintings of fantasy and satire. Klee’s art was also distinguished by an extraordinary diversity and technical innovation, with one of his most effective techniques being oil transfer. This involved the artist drawing with a sharp point on the reverse of a sheet coated in oil paint and laid down over another sheet.

Paul Klee , In the Quarry, 1913. Watercolour on paper mounted on cardboard, 22.3 x 35.2 cm. Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum Bern
Paul Klee , Villa R, 1919. Oil on panel, 26 x 22 cm. Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel , Switzerland

Markings and smudges of pigment appeared as a side effect of the process but it meant Klee achieved, for many of his works, the effect of a “ghostly” impression. Klee was a teacher at the Bauhaus, Germany’s most advanced art school, from 1920 to 1931 and immensely productive.

Paul Klee , The Goldfish, 1925. Oil and watercolour on paper mounted on cardboard, 49.6 x 69.2 cm. Hamburger Kunsthalle , Hamburg, Germany

Finally, the seizure of power by the National Socialists drove him and his wife to leave Germany for his native Switzerland. Klee’s later works, in which simplified, archaic forms dominate, show a preoccupation with mortality. Klee died in 1940, after a long period of illness.

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Author: Parkstone International

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