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Paul Klee

December 18, 1879 - June 29, 1940


Paul Klee was a German and Swiss painter born on December 18th, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. He was born as the second child of the German music teacher Hans Wilhelm Klee (1849-1940) and the Swiss singer Ida Marie Klee, nee Frick (1855-1921). Encouraged by his musical parents, he took up the violin at age seven. Klee, however, decided on the visual arts as a teenager, partly out of rebellion and partly because he wanted to create rather than just perform. He craved the freedom to explore radical ideas and styles. Klee was fundamentally a transcendentalist, believing that the material world was only one among many realities open to human awareness. In 1898 he began studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. After receiving his Fine Arts degree, Klee went to Italydrawn to the colors of Italian old masters. Since color represented the optimism and nobility in art, Klee hoped to incorporate it to relieve the pessimistic nature of the black-and-white grotesques and satires he was producing at the time. By 1905, Klee was developing some experimental techniques, including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass, producing fifty-seven works. Klee married Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf in 1906. They had one son named Felix Paul the next year. In 1910 Klee’s work at this time was starting to show an inclination toward the absurd and the sarcastic when he joined the editorial team of the almanach Der Blaue Reiter, which opened his mind to modern theories of color. While Klee was in Paris around 1912, the work of Vincent van Gogh pushed Klee’s emotional use of color. Klee saw analogies between music and visual art, such as in the transient nature of musical performance and the time-based painting processes. Klee was a “Form” master in the bookbinding, stained glass, and mural painting departments at Bauhaus and started to apply paint in unusual ways. Klee’s health started to decline around 1933, and in 1939, he used heavier lines and mainly geometric forms with fewer and larger blocks of bring or somber color. Paul Klee died June 29th, 1940.

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