Modern Art - Paul Klee

Paul Klee

The "fairy tales" of the German-Swiss painter Paul Klee are more purposeful and controlled than Chagall's. Klee had been influenced by Cubism, but was also interested in primitive art and the drawings of small children. During World War I, Klee created a pictoral language all his own. The unique flavor of Klee's art is crafted with a few simple lines and conveys the complexities and contradictions of modern life. To Paul Klee, art was a "language of signs". Shapes are the images of ideas.

Klee was aware that in a conventional system of images, the sign is a 'trigger' to meaning. Klee wanted his signs to live in our visual awareness as facts themselves, as well as have the sense of being triggers toward meaning. Toward the end of his life, Klee immersed himself in the study of ideographs of all kinds, including hieroglyphics, hex signs and prehistoric cave images.

Paul Klee began his artistic journey within Der Blaue Reiter group. After serving in the army during World War I, he began teaching at the Bauhaus. As a teacher, he began to publish the tenets of his own painting. He sought to clarify the process of creation as an intuitive act arising from the peculiar spirit of the artist but also affected by his personal experiences. He was concerned with the geometric elements of the work of art: the point, the line, the solid, the plane. Klee believed these elements had a primary basis in nature and the process of change from one to the other fascinated him.

To Klee, color was energy. It was the emotion that established the mood of the painting within which the line established the action.

Paul Klee was only rarely a pure Abstractionist. Klee began to draw like a child, letting the pencil or brush lead him until the image began to emerge. He then refined the image with considerable skill until it took a final form. The contrast between the naïve and sophisticated styles within Klee's art creates a shock of contrast, forcing the viewer to participate in the magical moment of artistic creation.

Klee was a Romantic and a mystic. He saw painting, and any creative act, as a magical experience during which the artist combined an inner vision and an outer experience. Klee painted abstract elements that he combined into works of fantasy. The total effect of his paintings is organic rather than geometric. During the 1920s Klee produced a series of black pictures, some of which were dark underwater scenes where fish swam surrounded by landscapes of geometric forms. The Golden Fish is from this period.

After ten years of teaching at the Bauhaus, Klee continued to expand his painting language, touching at one moment or another on almost every movement of twentieth century painting. He died in 1940.