The Artistic Life of Paul Klee: a Journey through his Styles and Influences

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Modern art has always been very interesting to me. As I have learned more about modern art and influential artists of the period, I have found Paul Klee to be my favorite modern artist. He participated in multiple styles of art, creating wonderful pieces that depict varying artistic movements. Many of these works display so much depth because of their correlation to events in his life. However, several of them also contain elements of humor and satire that speak to the pattern of resistance he exhibited throughout his life. I admire Paul Klee’s work because it spans so many styles and displays a fun and beautiful spirit persisting against the hardships he was dealt.

Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. His parents were musicians: his father was a music teacher, and his mother was a singer. As they saw that Klee had some musical ability, the two encouraged their son to pursue music from an early age. He played violin for a considerable amount of time, but he found himself more attracted to drawing and painting. When he was 19, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich to study art. Klee found great success with his drawings while there, but his main desire was to master painting. Despite believing that he would never learn to paint, he managed to receive his degree and left for Italy in 1901 to study the works of famed painters, where he initially became inspired by their uses of color. Throughout the rest of his career, several different styles and artists would inspire his work.

In 1911, Klee started associating with artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and August Macke and began to experiment with different forms of art. Prior to this, Klee had been working on drawings and etchings; however, after developing friendships with other prominent artists and taking inspiration from movements like cubism and expressionism, Klee initiated his own style. As his art career progressed, he joined the staff of the Bauhaus, a German art school, where he taught for ten years. While there, Klee, along with other teachers, emphasized deviation from academic art, favoring more abstract approaches. This emphasis became an unconventional idea for the times. As the Nazis came to power, Hitler declared art that did not depict things realistically to be “degenerate.”

Klee and the Bauhaus were heavily impacted by the rise of Nazism. Klee left the school in 1931, and the Bauhaus was shut down in 1933. Klee joined the Dusseldorf Academy upon leaving the Bauhaus, but he was dismissed by the Nazis two years later due to his status as degenerate. Klee continued to be targeted by the Nazis, as his work was featured in the Degenerate Art Show in 1937. Klee relocated to Switzerland after leaving Dusseldorf, where he continued working until his death from scleroderma on June 29, 1940.

Klee’s artworks are known to exemplify several different styles, and he has often been declared the “father of abstract art” (Gotthardt). Countless things in his life served as inspirations for his work. His love for the classical music he played as a child crept into his art. One of his works, In the Style of Bach, aimed to mimic a physical score, having different objects strewn throughout to imitate notes on the page. Another aspect of his life presented in his art was his sense of humor. Klee was said to be very witty, and many of his works use this to be able to convey a particular message. Several of these works are also examples of expressionism, where Klee portrayed his own life experiences and deep emotions. In my opinion, Struck from the List embodies both of these things.

Klee painted this after being dismissed from the Dusseldorf Academy. The crying face exhibited showcases the deep pain that this dismissal caused him, but I believe that the abstract shaping of his face brings a small element of humor to the piece as well. Klee was also renowned for his surrealist creations and abstract art. Puppet Theatre is one of his surrealist works that possess a dreamlike quality with bizarre shapes and vivid colors while simultaneously showing a real scene of a young girl playing with puppets. An excellent example of his abstract art is Southern Gardens. It is comprised of several different patches of color that come together to recreate the beautiful scenery that makes up a garden.

This painting portrays Klee’s unique use of color as well. I really appreciate his choices of colors to use in his abstract works especially. Many famous abstract works either deal with darker colors or only use one bold color. Klee often used many bold colors to create imaginative landscapes and scenes, and I find this level of creativity much more exciting. It is also impressive to me that he utilized these same bold choices of color in his cubist pieces. Senecio is one of Klee’s cubist pieces that use bright reds, oranges, and yellows to create a more eccentric type of portrait. I think this makes the idea of a serious portrait much more playful and enjoyable for a viewer.

Klee’s light-hearted tone is a big part of what causes me to enjoy his work so much. However, as he aged, his tone darkened and became evident in his work, which can be seen as his “lines turn into black bars…scale larger, and colors simpler” (Rewald). Despite his circumstances worsening and this shift, I believe small levels of whimsicality can still be found. This flower, Wishes to Fade, depicts the humorous shaping of a person’s head as the flower while also relaying the dark message of death approaching, evidenced by the title and the time of the work’s creation. While his later works do take on this tone, I still find myself admiring Klee because of the resistance he showed throughout his career. He rebelled against traditional art and was a central figure in the Bauhaus movement. He continued to create artwork despite the rise of Nazism and their condemnation of his styles.

In doing these things, he maintained his use of eccentric colors, experimental style, and humorous tone throughout all of his works. This brings me to believe that Klee’s career is a great example of optimism in the face of oppression. I admire this greatly because I think that it is important to maintain a sense of joy during hard times. His persistence throughout his life is what I find most inspiring about him, and it is why I find his work to be the most fascinating out of the modern era of art.

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The Artistic Life of Paul Klee: A Journey through His Styles and Influences. (2023, Mar 24). Retrieved June 25, 2024 , from
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