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Exploring the Influence of Paul Klee

Updated: Apr 24

In my recent pursuit of vintage public domain artwork for my shops (Redbubble and Etsy), I've come across the artist Paul Klee. After being drawn to several of his pieces, I decided to look into Paul and share what I found.

Klee's name was familiar to me, but the details on him weren't, yet over and over I naturally gravitated towards his work. I'm sure I learned about him in my university Art History classes, but that was 16 years ago, so forgive my memory.

Paul Klee

A Swiss-born German, Paul Klee burst into the world December 18, 1879. Klee came from a musical background, his father Hans Wilhelm Klee was a music teacher and his mother Ida Marie Klee a Swiss singer. While studying at Stuttgart Conservatory Hans met Paul’s mother Ida. Initially as a teen, Paul pursued music following his parent’s wishes, but he decided instead on the visual arts. Paul is quoted saying, "I didn't find the idea of going in for music creatively particularly attractive in view of the decline in the history of musical achievement.” He had the view that contemporary music lacked meaning and instead enjoyed the works of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. 

Around the age of sixteen, Paul’s skillful landscapes showed promise and by 1898 Klee started studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. When speaking of his time at the academy Paul said, “During the third winter I even realized that I probably would never learn to paint.”

Despite some wild times in pubs, seducing artist models and lower-class women, Paul received his degree in fine arts. Paul then traveled around with his friend Hermann Haller studying art. He commented on the colors of Italy, saying "that a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of color.” Paul struggled with color theory, but he explored and experimented with color and eventually overcame his this struggle. He credited his 1914 visit to Tunisia in awakening his sense of color. 

In 1911, Paul became involved with Vasily Kandinsky and Franz Marc’s German Expressionist group, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) where his lifelong friendship with Kandinsky formed. Klee had always been a solitary artist and this time with the group helped him explore and experiment with his artwork. 

By 1915, Paul deviated away from landscapes and nature and moved into abstracted forms. He took inspiration from music, literature, poetry, and every day events. He also put great meaning into the titles of his work, setting the stage for what he wanted the viewer to see. 

Eventually, Paul went on to join the faculty at the Bauhaus and around half of his varied 10,000 works were produced during the ten years he taught there. Later he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf from 1931 to 1933. 

After teaching, his work took on a more somber tone. The political climate in Europe at the time, blending with his personal hardships, are reflective in his work. 

Paul developed scleroderma and died on June 29, 1940 at the age of 60 in Mualto, Locarno, Switzerland. He created 50 drawings of angels in his last months alive. 

Klee left extensive writings highlighting his journey as an artist. His ever evolving individual style was influenced by surrealism, expressionism, and cubism. Artists such as Adolph Gotten, Jackson Pollock, Norman Lewis, and Robert Motherwell were inspired by Klee’s work and future artists will continue to be influenced by this great artist of the twentieth century. 

My Curated Works by Paul Klee

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