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KLEE

(Paul Klee, 1879-1940)

"Transcendentalism was the common interest of the painters who formed the Expressionist group known as Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1910. It was also a deep-set part of Bauhaus thought and practice, for nothing could be further from the truth than the idea that the Bauhaus represented some kind of logic opposed to the world-transforming aspirations of Expressionism. When Kandinsky taught at the Bauhaus, so did a Swiss artist named Paul Klee. And though Klee was not a Theosophist he was, like Kandinsky, devoted to an ideal of painting that stemmed from German idealist metaphysics.
"The monument of Klee's obsession with this metaphysics was a singular book, The Thinking Eye, written during his teaching years at the Bauhaus - one of the most detailed manuals on the "science" of design ever written, conceived in terms of an all embracing theory of visual "equivalents" for spiritual states which, in its knotty elaboration, rivalled Kandinsky's. Klee tended to see the world as a model, a kind of orrery run up by the cosmic clockmaker - a Swiss God - to demonstrate spiritual truth. This helps account for the toylike character of his fantasies; if the world had no final reality, it could be represented with the freest, most schematic wit, and this Klee set out to do. Hence his reputation as a petit-maître.
"Like Kandinsky, Klee valued the "primitive," and especially the art of children. He envied their polymorphous freedom to create signs, and respected their innocence and directness. 'Do not laugh, reader! Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in their having it! The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us ....' In his desire to paint 'as though newborn, knowing absolutely nothing about Europe,' Klee was a complete European. His work ferreted around in innumerable crannies of culture, bringing back small trophies and emblems from botany, astronomy, physics, and psychology. Music had a special influence on him. He believed that eighteenth-century counterpoint (his favourite form) could be translated quite directly into gradations of colour and value, repetitions and changes of motif; his compositions of stacked forms, fanned out like decks of cards or colour swatches, are attempts to freeze time in a static composition, to give visual motifs the "unfolding" quality of aural ones - and this sense of rhythmic disclosure, repetition, and blossoming transferred itself, quite naturally, to Klee's images of plants and flowers. He was the compleat Romantic, hearing the Weltgeist in every puff of wind, reverent before nature but careful to stylize it. Klee's assumptions were unabashedly transcendentalist. 'Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth,' he wrote in 1920, 'things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other, latent realities ...'
"Klee's career was a search for the symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities - its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity), he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object, from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches, makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of the time Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatial grandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood. Klee's work did not offer the intense feelings of Picasso's, or the formal mastery ofMatisse's. The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching around the edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps, transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee's ideas about pictorial space came out of Robert Delaunay's work, especially the Windows. The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in the watercolour washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian Robert Rosenblum has said, 'Klee's particular genius [was] to be able to take any number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child's enchanted world.'
"If Klee was not one of the great formgivers, he was still ambitious. Like a miniaturist, he wanted to render nature permeable, in the most exact way, to the language of style - and this meant not only close but ecstatic observation of the natural world, embracing the Romantic extremes of the near and the far, the close-up detail and the "cosmic" landscape. At one end, the moon and mountains, the stand of jagged dark pines, the flat mirroring seas laid in a mosaic of washes; at the other, a swarm of little graphic inventions, crystalline or squirming, that could only have been made in the age of high-resolution microscopy and the close-up photograph. There was a clear link between some of Klee's plant motifs and the images of plankton, diatoms, seeds, and micro-organisms that German scientific photographers were making at the same time. In such paintings, Klee tried to give back to art a symbol that must have seemed lost forever in the nightmarish violence of World War I and the social unrest that followed. This was the Paradise-Garden, one of the central images of religious romanticism - the metaphor of Creation itself, with all species growing peaceably together under the eye of natural (or divine) order." 

- From Robert Hughes, "The Shock of the New"

 


 Klee_TWITTERING_MACHINE

Klee, Paul Twittering Machine (Die Zwitschermaschine) 1922 Watercolor and pen and ink on transfer drawing on paper mounted on cardboard 64.1 x 48.3 cm (25 1/4 x 19 in.) Museum of Modern Art, New York

 Klee_TUNISIAN

Klee, Paul Twittering Machine (Die Zwitschermaschine) 1922 Watercolor and pen and ink on transfer drawing on paper mounted on cardboard 64.1 x 48.3 cm (25 1/4 x 19 in.) Museum of Modern Art, New York

 Klee_S_GARDEN

Klee, Paul Southern Gardens 1936 Oil on paper, mounted on cardboard 10 3/8 x 12 1/4 in. Collection Norman Granz, Geneva

 Klee_ROSE_GARDEN

Klee, Paul Rose Garden 1920 Oil on cardboard 19 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (49 x 42.5 cm) Lenbachhaus, Munich

 Klee_REFUGE

Klee, Paul Refuge 1930 Oil and watercolor on plaster-coated gauze, on paper-faced board 56.8 x 38.1 cm (22 3/8 x 15 in.)

 Klee_PARNASSU

Klee, Paul Ad Parnassum 1932 Oil on canvas 39 x 49 in. (100 x 126 cm.) Kunstmuseum, Bern

 Klee_PARNADTL

Klee, Paul Ad Parnassum Detail 1932 Oil and casein on canvas 39 3/8 x 49 5/8 in. Kunstmuseum, Bern

 Klee_PARKIDOL

Klee, Paul Park of Idols 1939 Watercolor on blackened paper 14 x 8 1/4 in. Collection Felix Klee, Bern

 Klee_NILE

Klee, Paul Legend of the Nile 1937 Pastel on cotton cloth mounted on burlap 27 1/8 x 24 in. (69 x 61 cm) Kunstmuseum Bern

 Klee_KLEE_UNTITLED

Klee, Paul Untitled (Still Life) Ohne Titel (Stilleben) 1940 Oil on canvas 39 3/8 x 31 5/8 in. (100 x 80.5 cm) Private collection, Switzerland

 Klee_INSULA

Klee, Paul Insula Dulcamara 1938 Oil on newsprint, mounted on burlap 31 1/2 x 69 in. Klee Foundation, Bern

 Klee_HIGHWAY

Klee, Paul Highway and Byways 1929 Oil on canvas 32 5/8 x 26 3/8 in. Collection Christoph and Andreas Vowinckel

 Klee_GOLDFISH

Klee, Paul The Goldfish 1925 Oil and watercolor on paper, mounted on cardboard 19 1/8 x 27 in. Kunsthalle, Hamburg

 Klee_GARDEN

Klee, Paul Remembrance of a Garden 1914 Watercolor on linen paper mounted on cardboard 25.2 x 21.5 cm Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf

 Klee_EMBRACE

Klee, Paul Embrace 1939 Paste color, watercolor, and oil on paper 9 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. Collection Dr. Bernhard Sprengel, Hanover

 Klee_DRM_CITY

Klee, Paul Dream City 1921 Watercolor and oil 18 7/8 x 12 1/4 in Private collection

 Klee_DOMES

Klee, Paul Red and White Domes 1914 Watercolor and body color on Japanese vellum mounted on cardboard 14.6 x 13.7 cm Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf

 Klee_DESTROYED_PLACE

Klee, Paul Destroyed Place 1920 Oil on paper mounted on gray-blue cardboard mounted on plain cardboard, with a narrow strip of tarnished silver around the image 8 3/4 x 7 5/8 in. (22.3 x 19.5 cm) Lenbachhaus, Munich

 Klee_DEATH_FIRE

Klee, Paul Death and Fire 1940 17 1/3 x 18 in (44 x 46 cm)

 Klee_CASTLE_GARDEN

Klee, Paul Castle Garden (Schlossgarten) 1931 Oil on canvas 26 3/8 x 21 5/8 in. (67.2 x 54.9 cm) Museum of Modern Art, New York

 Klee_CAPTIVE

Klee, Paul Captive 1940 Oil on burlap 18 7/8 x 17 3/8 in. Collection Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Zimmerman, New York

 Klee_ANCIENT

Klee, Paul Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black 1925 Oil on cardboard 15 x 15 in. Kunstsammlung, Basel

klee_On_a_Motif_from_Hamamet

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. On a Motif from Hamamet. 1914. Tempera on board. 27 x 22.5 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

klee_Reconstructin

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Reconstructin. 1926. Oil on muslin. 36.3 x 39.3 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany.

klee_Carnival_in_the_Mountains

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Carnival in the Mountains. 1924. Watercolor on paper on board. 23.5 x 31.1 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Botanical_Theater

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Botanical Theater. 1924/34. Oil and watercolor on board. 50.2 x 67.2 cm. Private collection.

klee_Gate_in_the_Garden

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Gate in the Garden. 1926. Oil on panel. 54.5 x 44 cm. Huggler Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland.

klee_Fish_Magic

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Fish Magic. 1925. Oil and watercolor varnished. 76.8 x 98.1 cm. The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, USA

klee_Around_the_Fish

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Around the Fish. 1926. Tempera and oil. 46.3 x 64.1 cm. The Museum of Modern Arts, New York, NY, USA.

klee_Little_Jester_in_a_Trance

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Little Jester in a Trance. 1929. Oil and watercolor on hessian. 50 x 35.5 cm. Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany.

klee_Monument_in_Fertile_Country

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Monument in Fertile Country. 1929. Watercolor. 46 x 30.5 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Fire_in_the_Evening

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Fire in the Evening. 1929. Oil on board. 37 x 36 cm. The Museum of Modern Arts, New York, NY, USA.

klee_Ad_Marginem

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Ad Marginem. 1930. Watercolor varnished. 46.3 x 35.9. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

klee_Hermitage

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Hermitage. 1918. Watercolor on chalk ground. 18.3 x 25.4 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Fruits_on_Red

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Fruits on Red. 1930. Watercolor on silk. 61.2 x 46.2 cm. Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany.

klee_Conqueror

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Conqueror. 1930. Watercolor. 41.6 x 34.2 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Polyphony

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Polyphony. 1932. Tempera on linen. 66.5 x 106 cm. Emanuel Hoffman Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland.

klee_Polyphony

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Polyphony. 1932. Tempera on linen. 66.5 x 106 cm. Emanuel Hoffman Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland.

klee_The_Future_Man

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. The Future Man. 1933. Watercolor applied by spatula. 61.8 x 46 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Drawn_One

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Drawn One. 1935. Gauze. 30.5 x 27.5 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany.

klee_Contemplating

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Contemplating. 1938. Paste color on newsprint. 47.2 x 65.8 cm. Galerie Beyeler, Base, Switzerlandl.

klee_Heroic_Roses

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Heroic Roses. 1938. Oil on stained canvas. 68 x 52 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany

klee_Red_Waistcoat

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Red Waistcoat. 1938. Paste color, waxed. 65.1 x 42.5 cm. Kunstzammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf, Germany.

klee_Outburst_of_Fear

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Outburst of Fear. 1939. Watercolor on paper prepared with tempera. 63 x 48 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Cosmic_Composition

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Cosmic Composition. 1919. Oil on pasteboard. 48 x 41 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany.

klee_Woman_in_Peasant_Dress

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Woman in Peasant Dress. 1940. Paste color on paper. 48 x 32 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Death_and_Fire

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Death and Fire. 1940. Oil on paper. 46 x 44 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Revolving_House

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Revolving House. 1921. Oil on cotton cloth. 37.5 x 52.2 cm. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

klee_Attrappen_(Omega_5),_1927

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Attrappen (Omega 5), 1927. Oil and watercolor on cadboard. 56.5 x 42.5 cm. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

klee_Individualized_Altimetry_of_Stripes

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Individualized Altimetry of Stripes. 1930. Pastel fixed with flour paste. 18 1/2 x 25 1/8". Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Siblings

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Siblings. 1930. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

klee_Nocturnal_Festivity

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Nocturnal Festivity. 1921. Oil on board. 50 x 61 cm. The Solomon R. Guggebheim Museum, New York, NY, USA.

klee_Red_Balloon

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Red Balloon. 1922. Oil on muslin primed with chalk. 31.8 x 31.1 cm. The Solomon R. Guggebheim Museum, New York, NY, USA.

klee_Senecio

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Senecio. 1922. Oil on gauze. 40.5 x 38 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.

klee_A_Young_Lady's_Adventure

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. A Young Lady's Adventure. 1921. Watercolor. 43.8 x 30.8 cm. Tate Gallery, London, UK

klee_Puppet_Theater

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Puppet Theater. 1923. Watercolor on chalk ground. 51.4 x 37.2 cm. Paul Klee Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Berne, Switzerland.

klee_Crystal_Gradation

Klee

Klee

Paul Klee. Crystal Gradation. 1921. Watercolor. 24.5 x 31.5 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland.