Klee, Paul


Paul Klee

Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, 1879

Muralto, Switzerland, 1940


Although Klee decided to study painting, he never abandoned his passion for music, inherited from his family environment. He moved to Munich, with its vibrant cultural scene, and soon managed to enroll in Franz Stuck’s classes at the Academy of Art. After three years of study, he spent a year traveling in Italy. 

Between 1903 and 1906 he lived in Bern again. The prints he created during this time, which show a notable influence of the satirical symbolism of artists such as Ensor and Beardsley, marked a change in his approach to artistic creation. Although formal and technical diversity characterized his work in the first decade of the twentieth century, little by little color revealed itself as one of the fundamental elements in his creation. 

In 1906 he returned to Munich to marry the pianist Lily Stumpf. In 1910 he held his first exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Bern, which later traveled to Zurich, Winterthur and Basel. Around this time he got to know Kubin, Macke, Kandinsky and Marc. In 1912 he wrote about the Der Blaue Reiter exhibition and took part in the group’s second show. At that time, his work was associated with the painting of Robert Delaunay, who he had met in Paris. 

As part of the evolution of his work in terms of light and color, his trip to Tunis in 1914 was decisive; in communion with nature, he abandoned the reproduction of nature in his paintings to focus instead on its evocative power. The watercolors and gouaches he painted between 1917 and 1920 became the thematic and symbolic definition of his work. His figures became allegorical, and the texts that made up many of his creations delved deeply into the production of meaning, using guidelines associated with musical polyphony and the oriental. 

After the First World War, Klee achieved considerable success. In 1920 he was appointed as a teacher at the Bauhaus school in Weimar. His educational theories at that time were very significant, and in this decade his pictorial repertoire became consolidated; while light and color predominated in his oil paintings and gouaches, his watercolors introduced transparency to evoke the world from a new perspective, associating everyday elements in an unusual way. 

In 1930, he took over the painting class at the Prussian Academy of Art in Düsseldorf, but in 1933, after having to apply for documents to prove his Aryan origin, he was suspended from his duties as a teacher. Shortly afterwards, he and his family moved to Bern. From then on, thick, linear, monochrome signs became the protagonists of his painting. In 1937, one of his works was included in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition. In the following years he exhibited in both New York and Paris. In 1940, a few months before being admitted to hospital for the scleroderma that he had suffered from since 1935, he held a major exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich. 

Noemi de Haro