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Biography
PAUL KLEE
1879-1940, Swiss painter, graphic artist, and art theorist, b. near Bern. Klee's enormous production (more than 9,000 works) is unique in that it represents the successful combination of his sophisticated theories of abstraction with a very personal inventiveness that has the appearance of great innocence. The son of a music teacher, he was himself a musician, and musical analogies permeate his writing. He traveled through Europe, open to many artistic influences. The most important of these were the works of Blake, Beardsley, Goya, Ensor, and, especially, Cézanne. In 1911 he became associated with the Blaue Reiter group and later exhibited as one of the Blue Four.

Klee's awakening to color occurred on a trip to Tunis in 1914, a year after he had met Delaunay and been made aware of new theories of color use. Thereafter his whimsical and fantastic images were rendered with a luminous and subtle color sense. Characteristic of his witty, often grotesque, pieces are The Twittering Machine (1922, Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) and Fish Magic (1925, Phila. Mus. of Art). Other works reveal the strong, rhythmic patterns of a relentless terror, as in Revolutions of the Viaducts (1937, Hamburg). World famous by 1929, Klee taught at the Bauhaus (1922-31) and at the Düsseldorf academy (1931-33) until the Nazis, who judged his work degenerate, forced him to resign. In his series of Pedagogical Sketchbooks (tr. 1944) and lecture notes entitled The Thinking Eye (tr. 1961), Klee sought to define his intuitive approach to artistic creation. His last ten years were spent in Switzerland, and nearly 2,600 of his works are in the Klee Foundation, Bern.

Used with permission.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.
Copyright © 2001 Columbia University Press