The Father of Abstract Art; Paul Klee

The Father of Abstract Art; Paul Klee

Paul Klee was a German artist and one of the most celebrated figures in the history of modern art. His work, which combined the lyrical abstraction of the Cubists with the symbolism of the Symbolists, was a major influence on the development of Abstract Expressionism and Postmodernism in the 20th century. Born in Germany’s Rhineland, Klee moved to Paris in his twenties and quickly became one of the city’s most important modern painters. He was a founding member of the influential group known as the “Fauves,” which also included Henri Matisse and André Derain, and he was also a close associate of the influential Cubist painter Georges Braque.
Paul Klee
Abstract art was a major movement in art in the first half of the twentieth century, characterized by the use of shapes, lines, colors and textures to convey ideas without reference to any particular object or scene also known as non-figurative art, is a style of art that aims to express ideas and emotions without using traditional imagery such as people, animals, or objects. Instead, abstract art uses shapes, lines, colors and textures to convey meaning without reference to any particular object or scene. Paul Klee was a central figure of the Bauhaus movement, which sought to create a new kind of design. He was also known for his drawings, watercolors and oil paintings, which are now some of the most coveted works of twentieth century art.

Early works

Some of Klee's early preserved children's drawings, which his grandmother encouraged, were listed on his catalogue raisonné. A total of 19 etchings were produced during the Bern years; ten of these were made between 1903 and 1905 in the cycle "Inventionen" (Inventions), which were presented in June 1906 at the "Internationale Kunstausstellung des Vereins bildender Künstler Münchens. This was Klee's first painting to be publicly displayed. The etching Zwei Männer, einander in höherer Stellung vermutend (Two Men, Supposing the Other to be in a Higher Position), which was completed in 1903, is a perfect example of this trend. The etching depicts two naked men, who are presumably emperor Wilhelm II and Franz Joseph I of Austria.

Zwei Männer, einander in höherer Stellung vermutend

Mystical-abstract period, 1914–1919

Klee, Macke, and Moilliet created watercolor paintings during Klee's twelve-day trip to Tunis in April 1914, which were inspired by the strong light and colors of the North African countryside. Their goal was not to copy nature, but to create compositions that were similar to the way that nature is formed. Klee never abandoned painting objects from real life; he never stopped completely using real-world objects as inspiration for his work. However, it took him over ten years to experiment with and analyze color, which resulted in his developing his own independent style.

In den Häusern von St. Germain, 1914, watercolor on paper on cardboard


Works in the Bauhaus period and in Düsseldorf

He created abstract graphical elements such as betroffener Ort (Affected Place) (1922) during this time. Die Zwitscher-Maschine (The Twittering Machine) was later removed from the National Gallery after being named defamatory in the Munich exhibition Entartete Kunst. However, the painting was bought by the Buchholz Gallery, New York, and then transferred in 1939 to the Museum of Modern Art.

Fright of a Girl, 1922, Watercolor, India ink and oil transfer drawing on paper, with India ink on paper mount

During his travels through Egypt in 1929, Klee felt a connection to the land. He was impressed by the ancient funerary monuments and how they seemed to establish a convincing relationship with the immensity of the landscape. He was also drawn to the esoteric numerology that governed the construction of these monuments. In 1933, his last year in Germany, he created a range of paintings and drawings; the catalog raisonné comprised 482 works.

Last works in Switzerland

In this period Klee mainly worked on large-sized pictures. After the onset of illness, there were about 25 works in the 1936 catalogue, but his productivity increased in his final years as he created several hundred of paintings. They dealt with ambivalent themes, expressing his personal fate, the political situation and his sense of humor.

Ohne Titel (Letztes Stillleben), 1940, oil on canvas on stretcher frame, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

In 1940 Klee created something that strongly differs from his previous works, but left it unsigned on the scaffold. The comparatively realistic still life, Ohne Titel, later named as Der Todesengel (Angel of Death), depicts flowers, a green pot, sculpture and an angel. The moon on black ground is separated from these groups. During his 60th birthday Klee was photographed in front of this picture.

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