Paul Klee (1879–1940)
German-Swiss painter, born in Berne. Undecided at first whether to pursue art or music, he eventually went to Munich to study and joined the Blaue Reiter group (Kandinsky). His eyes were opened to the use of colour during a visit to Tunis (1914), and henceforth his colour harmonies and contrasts were as much a feature of his work as his brilliant draughtsmanship.
In 1920 he joined the Bauhaus in Weimar, but soon after Hitler came to power he was dismissed (1933) from an appointment at the Düsseldorf Academy, on the grounds that his art was decadent, and settled in Switzerland.
As Klee has been one of the most important influences on modern art, his methods of composition are significant. Instead of consciously deciding upon a subject for a picture, his starting point would be splashes of colour intuitively conceived, which by the processes of association and suggestion, modified by his acquired knowledge of composition, set up a train of ‘pictorial thinking’ which he would follow until a picture was achieved.
The naming of the picture was the final act, and his works often had evocative titles: The Twittering Machine, Dance, Monster to my Soft Song, Death and Fire. He wrote extensively on aesthetics, e.g. Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925, translated 1953) and The Nature of Nature (1973). His diaries were published in 1957. There were 9100 works in his catalogue – an output second only to Picasso.