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Who is Paul Klee?

Paul Klee, a Swiss-German artist, was a visionary of modern art, whose unique style blended surrealism, expressionism, and cubism. His work, characterized by a whimsical use of color and form, invites viewers into a dreamlike world. Klee's legacy continues to inspire and challenge our perceptions of art. How does his innovation influence today's artistic landscape? Explore with us.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Paul Klee is a Swiss artist known for his innovations in modern art painting. He taught at the famous Bauhaus school and was friends with Wassily Kandinsky. Paul Klee's experimental style went beyond any particular art movement and his explorations in color and line are well remembered.

Paul Klee was born 18 December 1879 close to Bern, Switzerland. He was a German citizen who lived in Munich, Germany for 35 years. Paul Klee's art education began at a private school in Munich and then he attended the Munich Academy to study art in the early 1900s. Although he was an accomplished violinist, Klee decided to become a visual artist rather than a musical one.

Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus School.
Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus School.

After marrying pianist Lili Stumpt in 1906, Paul Klee joined Munich's expressionist art group, Der Blaue Reiter, or The Blue Rider. In the early 1900s, Klee did many etchings in black and white. The etching used symbols such as letters of the alphabet and numbers. He also experimented with many different artistic techniques ranging from dark lines to mosaics.

Paul Klee was born near Bern, Switzerland in 1879.
Paul Klee was born near Bern, Switzerland in 1879.

In 1914, Paul Klee began using a lot of color in his work, having been inspired by a visit to North Africa. Klee taught art at both the Dusseldorf Academy and the Bauhaus school. Although he ended up teaching at Bauhaus for eleven years, he was fired from the Dusseldorf Academy for being a "degenerate" worker as deemed by the Nazis. Paul Klee left Germany for Switzerland in 1933.

Soon after arriving in Switzerland, Klee was diagnosed with scleroderma, a rare disease affecting skin and muscle. His scleroderma affected his artistic style since it limited his movement and his black lines became thicker and more prevalent and larger areas of color began to become a part of his works. Many of his paintings from the mid 1930s on had a dark, moody tone. Contrastingly, the last painting Klee did before his death is a visual summary of his artistic style called Still Life. Paul Klee died 29 June 1940 in Switzerland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Paul Klee and why is he significant in art history?

Paul Klee (1879–1940) was a Swiss-German artist renowned for his unique style that blended elements of expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. His significance in art history lies in his innovative approach to color theory and his exploration of abstraction, which influenced the development of 20th-century modern art. Klee's work is characterized by a whimsical, child-like quality, yet it is underpinned by deep theoretical knowledge and a sophisticated understanding of color and form. According to the Zentrum Paul Klee, which houses the most significant collection of his works, Klee was prolific, creating over 10,000 artworks during his lifetime.

What are some of Paul Klee's most famous works and what themes do they explore?

Some of Paul Klee's most famous works include "Twittering Machine" (1922), "Senecio" (1922), and "Castle and Sun" (1928). These pieces explore themes such as nature, music, and the subconscious. Klee often employed symbolism and playful imagery to delve into philosophical and existential questions. His art is known for its exploration of the inner child and the artist's own personal mythology, which he developed throughout his career. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has highlighted Klee's work in past exhibitions, emphasizing his impact on modern art.

How did Paul Klee's background and education influence his artistic style?

Paul Klee's artistic style was influenced by his diverse background and education. He was born to a German music teacher and a Swiss singer, which instilled in him a deep appreciation for music that would later manifest in his art. Klee studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he was exposed to symbolism and other contemporary artistic movements. His travels to Italy and Tunisia profoundly affected his use of color, as seen in his famous quote, "Color and I are one. I am a painter," after his Tunisian trip in 1914. Klee's time at the Bauhaus school as a teacher also played a crucial role in shaping his pedagogical and theoretical approach to art.

How did Paul Klee's work evolve throughout his career?

Paul Klee's work evolved significantly throughout his career. His early work was influenced by expressionism and was more focused on black-and-white graphic compositions. After his transformative trip to Tunisia in 1914, he began to incorporate vibrant colors and moved towards abstraction. During his tenure at the Bauhaus from 1921 to 1931, Klee developed his pedagogical methods and experimented with various materials and techniques. In his later years, despite suffering from a debilitating illness, Klee's output remained prolific, and his work became more introspective and complex, often reflecting his personal struggles.

What impact did Paul Klee have on future generations of artists?

Paul Klee had a profound impact on future generations of artists. His teaching at the Bauhaus and his theoretical writings on color theory and form influenced artists and educators worldwide. Klee's experimental approach to media and his blending of different art movements encouraged artists to explore beyond traditional boundaries. Artists like Josef Albers were directly influenced by Klee's teachings, and his legacy can be seen in the abstract expressionist movement and beyond. Klee's emphasis on the spiritual and emotional aspects of art continues to inspire contemporary artists who seek to express the intangible through their work.

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Discussion Comments


@Engelbert - You can get prints in a wide range of sizes with custom sizing online relatively easy. Not too expensive, either. You can also try your local or state art gallery, some have a prints section. You could even try certain bookstores.

I'm a big fan of his as well. I think my favorite Paul Klee painting would have to be Castle and Sun; the colors and off kilter shapes which form the abstract castle and the red sun in the dark red sky, it leaves me in awe. I have a print of it in my studio.


Paul Klee is one of my favorite expressionists. I love his use of color and the wide range in his style, from geometric abstractions to abstract symbolism. I love the titles of his work as well, they're very poetic and Klee was known to be influenced by poetry and music. I'd love to have a print of Wintry Mask, but I have no idea where to get Paul Klee prints.

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    • Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus School.
      By: ArTo
      Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus School.
    • Paul Klee was born near Bern, Switzerland in 1879.
      By: pavalena
      Paul Klee was born near Bern, Switzerland in 1879.