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Friday, January 17, 2014

Klee, Paul


Ad Parnassum (Polyphony2)
1932
oil on canvas
126 x 100 cm
Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland

This painting, considered Klee’s masterpiece, is an example of Klee’s masterful skill with color. His studies in the related fields of natural history, comparative anatomy and anthropology had brought him to the belief that nature was characterized by the permutation and movement of fundamental units of construction. He wanted to achieve an equivalent way of working in painting. From 1923 Klee created a series of imaginative color constructions which he called 'magic squares' in which he applied his theories. This series came to a conclusion in 1932 with Ad Parnassum. Klee likened each element in the painting to a theme in a polyphonic composition. He defined polyphony as 'the simultaneity of several independent themes'.

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.