• Paul Klee


The extensive work of Paul Klee (1879-1940) is pervaded by a complex symbolism that deals with the positioning of humans in society and nature. The use of Christian motifs, colored scales, sequences of numbers and letters and representational motifs in combination with abstract lines and surfaces encourages the viewer to reflect on himself.

Paul Ernst Klee was born into a musical family on December 18th in Münchenbuchsee. In addition to his talent for playing the violin, he developed a great interest in drawing and poetry at an early age. In 1898 he went to Munich to study art and thus rebelled against his parents' wish to pursue a career as a musician. In Munich, Klee initially studied graphics at Heinrich Knirr's private painting school. In 1900 he moved into his own studio and began studying at the art academy in Franz von Stuck's painting class, from where he began a study trip to Italy. In 1908 he became a member of the Association of Swiss Graphic Artists and took part in the exhibitions of the Munich and Berlin Secession as well as the exhibition in the Munich Glass Palace. In 1911 he became a founding member of the Munich artists' association Sema, met his artist colleagues August Macke and Wassily Kandinsky, and in the winter of that year he joined the group Der Blaue Reiter. It was only his acquaintance with Robert Delaunay that significantly changed his understanding of light and color. The intense light conditions that he experienced on his study trip to Tunisia with August Macke and Louis Moilliet, in combination with the findings from Delaunay's color studies, inspire him to create color-intensive watercolors that are visibly abstract. After further exhibitions of his works, Klee achieved his artistic breakthrough in 1918. The first retrospective solo exhibition of his works took place in 1920 at the Galerie Goltz in Munich. In the same year he was appointed workshop manager and teacher at the State Bauhaus by Walter Gropius. Here Klee makes his famous painting “Senecio (Baldgreis)”. A face can be seen in simplified geometric shapes. Disc-like, schematic and with displaced, reduced features, it can still be recognized as a face. In terms of color, the painting is kept in warm tones, which alternate between isolated white areas through yellow / orange to red. His first exhibition opened in the USA as early as 1924. Further exhibitions followed and the group Die Blaue Vier was founded together with Wassily Kandinsky and Alexej von Jawensky. In 1926 the Bauhaus opened in Dessau, where he again took on a teaching position. Understanding the interactions between lines, shapes, surfaces and colors was of central importance to him. Klee sees art as an act of creation parallel to nature. After his trip to Egypt in 1928-29, he mainly painted geometrically structured pictures and integrated hieroglyphic symbols into his work. Representative of this time is his work “Hauptweg und Nebenwege”, which corresponds to the title in blue, green and yellow variations: In the center of the picture there is a path made up of wide areas, to the left and right of it are many small paths in narrow colored stripes, shown. The strip-like paths all taper towards the horizon, which can be seen at the top of the picture. In 1931 he accepted a professorship at the Düsseldorf Art Academy and stayed there until 1933. During this time, he developed a new style in which he applied grid-like or mosaic-like color dots that construct the specific light and color relationships in his works. There is an interaction between points and lines. The use of stamps creates color-intensive mosaics that combine the colors into figures. After the National Socialists came to power, he returned to his parents' house in Bern, where he died on June 29, 1940 in Muralto.

Paul Klee's work cannot be clearly assigned to any style. He is closely linked to constructivism and Bauhaus. However, influences from Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism can also be recognized as well as primitivist motifs such as those of Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Throughout his life he experiments with different techniques and styles and breaks the recognized rules of art. In this sense, his work is groundbreaking for many abstract expressionist artists.

Sometimes he works with dreamlike, childlike, but also bizarre image content. Klee wants to make reality visible through colors, shapes and lines and the images speak out of themselves.

Art does not reproduce the visible, but makes it visible.

Paul Klee ©Foto, Alexander Eliasberg, ©Quotation, Paul Klee



Museum exhibitions (selection)

2020: Mapping Klee. Zentrum Paul Klee. Bern, Switzerland

2019: Paul Klee – Equilíbrio Instável. Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) São Paulo, Brazil

2018: Paul Klee. Construction Of Mystery. Pinakothek der Moderne. Munich, Germany

2016: Paul Klee at Play & Paul Klee in Color. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) San Francisco, CA, United States

2016: Paul Klee - Irony at Work. Centre Pompidou. Paris, France

2013: The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee. Tate Modern. London, United Kingdom

2013: Paul Klee. Engel. Hamburger Kunsthalle. Hamburg, Germany

2012: Late Klee. The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City, NY, United States

2012: Paul Klee E L’italia. Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) Rome, Italy

2011: Paul Klee. National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (MOMAK) Kyoto, Japan

2008: Kult des Künstlers: Das Universum Klee. Paul Klee in der Neuen Nationalgalerie. Neue Nationalgalerie. Berlin, Germany

2008: Paul Klee - Formen Spiele. Albertina. Vienna, Austria

2006: Focus - Paul Klee. Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York City, NY, United States

2004: Klee: His Years at the Bauhaus (1921–31) & Klee: The Late Years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York City, NY, United States

2003: Paul Klee im Rheinland. Bundeskunsthalle. Bonn, Germany

1995: Paul Klee - im Zeichen der Teilung. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany