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Paul Klee (1879–1940): "Color possesses me"

Hermitage, 1918, watercolor

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee near Bern. His father, Hans Klee and his mother Ida Maria Frick were musicians; and Klee himself was a talented violinist.
Klee studied drawing and painting in Munich for three years (1898–1901). In 1911 he became involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Klee and Kandinsky were lifelong friends. Although Klee worked in relative isolation, experimenting with various styles and media. His work was influenced by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstract translucent color planes of Robert Delaunay.

Temple Gardens

The turning point in his life and career was his traveling to Tunisia in 1914 with his artist friends August Macke and Louis Moillet, and lives in Tunis and Kairouan. Klee discovers colour. There Klee gradually detached color from physical description and used it independently, which gave him the final needed push toward abstraction. “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.” The view of the mosque in Hammamet with Its Mosque demonstrates Klee's path toward abstraction. He had turned his back to nature and never again painted after the model. Preoccupied with the ring of words, titles played a major part in his work - his titles set up the perspectives from which he wanted the works to be seen.

Last Still Life, 1940

In 1920 Klee was invited to join the faculty of the Bauhaus - the school of architecture and industrial design functioning first in Weimar (1919–25) and then Dessau (1925–32) where he taught 10 years.
In 1931 Klee started teaching painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. In 1933, Paul Klee was defamed by the Nazi regime as a “degenerate artist”, and left Düsseldorf to immigrate to Bern with his wife Lily Klee-Stumpf. His son Felix Klee (born 1907), a theatre and opera director, remains in Germany, together with his wife Euphrosine Klee-Grejowa. Personal hardship and the increasing gravity of the political situation in Europe are reflected in the somber tone of his late work.

Southern (Tunisian) Gardens, 1919

Around the Fish

The Black Prince, 1927

Cosmic Composition, 1919


Botanical Theatre

Before the Snow

Black Columns in a Landscape

Fruit on Red

Landscape with Yellow Birds

Ancient Sound



Miraculous Landing, or the "112!", 1920

Attrapen (Omega 5), 1927

20th century Expressionism, Paul Klee, Modern art, Swiss artists

20th century Expressionism, Paul Klee, Modern art, Swiss artists

20th century Expressionism, Paul Klee, Modern art, Swiss artists

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