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Paul Klee is undeniably one of the most creative artists of the 20th century and has a body of work which cant easily be classified. Klees innovative paintings feature colour blocks, symbols, hieroglyphic-style lettering and elements highlighting his musical background. His work is often associated with expression, cubism and futurism and he is mentioned alongside greats such as Kandinsky, Picasso and Matisse. Klees influence in colour theory and abstraction can be seen in the works of Rothko and Miro however, after establishing a natural ability to draw, it took Klee many years to develop a way with colour.
Klee was born in Switzerland on 18th December 1879 to a German father who taught music and Swiss singer Ida Marie. As a child, Klee was a natural draftsman and a talented young musician. He took violin lessons from the age of seven at the Municipal Music School and by age 11 was invited to play as a member of the celebrated Bern Music Association. By his teens however, Klee decided - much to the dismay of his parents that he would rather focus on the visual arts.
Klee studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1898 where his skills as a draftsman quickly developed yet he struggled to grasp colour. During his third year at the school Klee reflected I realised that I probably would never learn to paint.
After gaining his degree in Fine Arts, Klee moved to Italy where he stayed until May 1902. Travelling though Florence, Naples and Rome he studied master painters from past centuries but found himself reverting to black and white drawings. By 1905, Klee came to experiment with etching, developing a method where he drew onto a blackened pane of glass using a needle. Klees first one-man exhibition came in 1910 at the Kunsthaus in Zurich were he displayed his early drawings and etchings.
1911 saw Klee join the editorial team of the Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) - a group of artists, co-founded by Wassily Kandinsky. Klee recalled about Kandinsky I came to feel a deep trust in him. He is somebody, and has an exceptionally beautiful and lucid mind. Kandinsky went on to be a long friend, colleague and influencer of Klee. In the following years, Klee began to focus once again on colour theories; on a trip to Paris he met Robert Delaunay and found influence in his use of colour. Shortly after Klee produced some of his earliest watercolours including, The Quarry (1913).
A defining moment for Klee came in 1914 during a trip to Tunisia. There he found himself captivated by the natural light in the county. Colour has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever... Colour and I are one. I am a painter. Soon after Klee created his very first purely abstract painting titled, Kairouan which was made up from coloured rectangles and some circles. From that point on, rectangles became the standard building blocks for much of his work.
Over the years, Klee continued to build on and adapt the way he used colour and also worked as a teacher at the famous Bauhaus school of modern art, alongside Kandinsky, from 1921-1931. In 1932, Klee produce Ad Parnassum, his most celebrated piece of work often referred to as his masterpiece. Up until his death in 1940, Klee continued to paint regularly and would start off his day by playing the violin before moving on to the canvas.
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