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Born: 1879

Died: 1940

Gender: Male

Nationality: Swiss


“Art does not render the visible, it makes visible.” Paul Klee.

The birth of Paul Klee near Berne came soon after the rise of the Impressionist movement in France. Klee’s father and his mother were both musicians. As a boy, Klee loved to listen to his grandmother’s fairy tales, many of which she illustrated herself. At school, languages, literature, poetry, music and drawing were all that interested him and he hesitated over the choice of career – poet, musician or illustrator?

He settled in Munich to study art. During these early years his excursions into the domain of colour were rare as he devoted himself above all to drawing and inaugurated the very distinctive style, at once philosophical and satirical, which was to characterise his work until around 1913. After a visit to Italy, Klee discovered early Christian art and the works of Raphael, Leonardo and Botticelli. He left for Berne and underwent a deep revision of all his beliefs and theories about art.

In 1906 he married Lily Stumpf and had a son. His career at this point was a mixture of successes and failures. Five years later he met Kandinsky and other artists from the newly founded ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ group (The Blue Rider). Klee believed that they shared a deep-rooted impulse to transform nature into a spiritual and pictorial equivalent. The following year an even more influential meeting took place with Robert Delaunay who gave equal and independent importance to colour, light and movement in his work. In 1914 Klee’s pre-occupation with colour was heightened during a trip to Tunisia. After World War One Klee’s reputation was increasing. By 1920 he had joined the Bauhaus group where he was to teach for the next decade. Violently attacked and forced to move by the Nazis, Klee returned to Berne penniless after all his German funds had been confiscated.

He started to produce larger pieces with fine linear qualities and bold graphic strokes. 1934 not only brought him his first English exhibition but sadly, the onset of skin cancer. In 1937 he resumed work with a phenomenal drive and energy, but died three years later near Locarno. Klee was extraordinarily prolific, producing almost 9,000 works during his career. Working in a number of different styles and media he was extremely flexible in his techniques as he explored the human psyche through his art. Yet his work remains highly distinctive and he continues to be amongst the most popular artists of the 20th century.