The Artist Paul Klee

Born near Bern, Switzerland in 1879, Paul Klee is associated with the Expressionism, Bauhaus, and Surrealism art movements. Gifted in music as well as art, Klee often exhibited unique interpretations of the movements he was associated with. Although many of his works embody child-like qualities, his art also showcases his renowned wit and even his appreciation for music. His art is considered highly individualistic and typically sells for millions at auction.

Klee’s father was a German music teacher and his mother was a trained singer from Switzerland. Although Klee spent much of his childhood in Switzerland and was born there, he was a German citizen. Klee began his art and music training at a young age. Initially he was praised for his drawing talent and struggled with color early in his career. While studying at The Academy of Art in Munich, Klee is said to have had many affairs; one resulted in an illegitimate son that died soon after birth.

In 1906 Klee married Lily Stumpf, a pianist. The couple settled in Germany which was known then for its circles of avant-garde artists. Klee’s work was slow-going, but he had his first individual exhibit of art in 1910. He soon after met and befriended the Russian artist Wassily Kandisky, a friendship that would have lasting significance for him. Klee continued to struggle with color and as an artist until a trip to Tunisia in 1914. The light of North Africa profoundly affected his work. His new-found success with color resulted in one of his best known works The Bavarian Don Giovanni (1919).

During WWI Klee painted camouflage on German airplanes and worked as a clerk. Throughout the war he continued to paint and exhibit. This art was particularly affected by the deaths of close artist friends. By the end of the war Klee was regarded as one of Germany’s best new artists. Klee began to teach at the influential Bauhaus in 1919. The school was created to merge arts and crafts together. Kandinsky joined Klee there a few years later. During his tenure there Klee created such important works as Miraculous Landing, or the “112” (1920). The Nazis closed the Bauhaus in 1933 which was the same year Klee and his family immigrated to Switzerland.

Prior to his departure to Switzerland, Klee created his master work Ad Parnassum (1932). Before leaving Germany, Klee produced a large volume of artistic work. After 1933 Klee began to exhibit symptoms of a wasting disease that would eventually take his life and affect his ability to paint as well as influence his subject matter. Klee died in 1940 at the age of sixty. Six days after his death his request for Swiss citizenship was granted.

Although the Nazis considered Klee’s work degenerative, the art world praised its inner sophistication and his use of innovative techniques and his singular mastery of mixed media. He created more than ten thousand works of art during his lifetime. Some of his most famous works are Fish Magic (1925) and The Twittering Machine (1922). Among the most famous abstract artists, Klee is hailed for his mastery of mosaics and his work is most popularly praised for its dreamlike reflections.