Monday, October 7, 2013

Klee, Paul

Around the Fish
oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard
46.7 x 63.8 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New york, NY, USA

A garnished platter of fish is surrounded by a constellation of seemingly disparate elements - a cross, full and crescent moons, an exclamation point, a forked red flag - all hovering against a dark abyss. Some of Klee's iconography grew out of his teaching; the arrow, which he initially used as a teaching tool to indicate force and emotion for his students at the Bauhaus, here points confrontationally towards a stylized head, possibly alluding to human consciousness. Although they are often enigmatic, Klee believed his personal hieroglyphs and figurative elements had wider connotations: "The object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge of its inner being, through the knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests." (MoMA)

Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter. (Klee)

Paul Klee (1879 - 1940) was born in Switzerland, into a family of musicians, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His childhood love of music was always to remain profoundly important in his life and work.

His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered color theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory, published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci's A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Klee went to Dusseldorf to teach at the Akademie in 1931, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. Forced by the Nazis to leave his position in Dusseldorf in 1933, Klee settled in Bern the following year. Klee died on June 29, 1940, in Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland.