Saturday, October 6, 2012

Paul Klee: The Evolution of Art

 “First of all, the art of living”. For Paul Klee, art was not merely an occupation or means of expression; it made him who he was. Born to a music teacher and singer in 1876, Klee was immersed in the world of the arts right from the start. In 1898 he broke away from his training as a musician and began training in art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munic. He became an incredible drawer but struggled with painting. After graduating, Klee traveled Italy and found himself falling in love with color as a way of expression, but could not seem to integrate color into his pieces.

    Klee married in 1906 and started a family in Munich. Finally, in 1911, his art picked up again when he illustrated Voltaire’s Candide. These pieces are an example of how Klee preferred to use line drawings early in his career, expressing emotion with little detail. This correlates to the way we have talked in class about objects telling a story. No matter how simple the subject matter of a drawing is, it can still be used to communicate some kind of emotion or narrative.

Shortly after his success with Candide, he joined the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter along with Wassily Knadinsky and Franz Marc. In 1914, a visit to Tunisia caused a shift in Klee’s work, as he began to finally feel comfortable using color and illustrating abstract ideas. He “had turned his back on nature” and painted abstractly and using symbols from then on (Rewald).

This image, Hammamet with Its Mosque, shows Klee's transition to painting and using color to integrate the real and imaginative.Using color successfully led Klee to making the statement that “this is the meaning of the happiest hour: I and color are one. I am a painter”” (McCullagh). However, he still used his old ways of line expression, as seen in Ghost Chamber with the Tall Door (1925).

Klee began teaching at Bauhaus, and remained there for 11 years, eventually moving to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts until 1933. Personal hardships and societal tensions in Europe are reflected in his later work, putting off a “somber tone” (Rewald). He suffered from scleroderma and died in 1940. His tombstone is inscribed with "I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is as much among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, But still not close enough." This is just yet another example of how integral art and creation were in Paul Klee’s life and career.
                I find Paul Klee fascinating because of his take on art and life, and the way the two overlap and connect. He once wrote “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather it makes visible”. This expresses his goal to create art from emotion and other ideas that are not necessarily concrete. His art cannot be classified, as he combined different media and subject matter and execution throughout his career. Klee refused to be committed to a certain category and set of rules, which I believe is the ultimate rebellion that drives art. He inspired others by constantly being unique. It can be seen in the following three works how Klee was not afraid to transition in order to communicate what he felt at certain times in his life, from the early still life stages, to the bright color expression, ending with a darker representation of his looming death.



  I appreciate and admire Paul Klee for his ability to use art as an “inward examination” and the ways in which he “attempted to penetrate the secret underlying rhythms of the creative forces of the universe” (McCullagh). He is the kind of artist that proves art is something worth working at, because as he once wrote, "art must evolve" despite challenges and changes along the way.

McCullagh, Janice. (1900). Paul Klee. In International Dictionary of Art and Artists. (Vol 1 page 433-437). Detroit, Michigan: St. James Press. 

Rewald, Sabine. "Paul Klee (1879–1940)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2012)

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