Swiss-born artist Paul Klee (German/Swiss, 1879–1940) is renowned for his unique absorption of European Modernist movements, incorporating techniques from Cubism, Surrealism, and German Expressionism into his paintings and works on paper. Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee and grew up in a family of musicians, excelling in both music and the visual arts in his youth. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under the artist Franz von Stuck (German, 1863–1928). In 1911, Klee met Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944), Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916), and other Expressionist artists, and exhibited his work alongside the group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1913. During the same period, he was exposed to French Cubism and, during a significant trip to Tunisia in 1914, was enthralled by the light and color of the landscape, inspiring a lifelong passion for exploring color theory in his work.

Klee began painting lively Abstract pieces following this trip, using blocks of color as the foundation for his landscapes, urban streets, and figurative scenes. He also experimented with texture and alternative materials, frequently painting on burlap and other rough surfaces. Klee’s subject matter ranges from satirical, whimsical, and childlike imagery, to the surreal and fantastic, to somber meditations on death and war. In 1919, he began teaching at the Bauhaus, the groundbreaking German school uniting fine arts, craft, and design, and exhibited at the Bauhaus and in Paris throughout the 1920s.

In 1923, Klee and Kandinsky joined artists Lyonel Feininger (American/German, 1871–1956) and Alexej Jawlensky (Russian, 1864–1941) to create Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), which traveled to the United Stated in 1925. Klee continued to teach until the Bauhaus was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933, and he was forced to emigrate from Germany to Switzerland with his family. The same year he fell ill with the muscular disease scleroderma, and he spent the last several years of his life painting works with sobering themes, reflecting the increased presence of violent, totalitarian regimes in Germany and Klee’s own declining health. He continued to paint, using broad, thick brushstrokes because of his physical condition, and died in 1940. Klee produced more than 9,000 works during his lifetime, and is celebrated as one of the most unique and innovative of the early 20th century Modernists.

Timeline

1879
Born: December 18, Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland
1898–1901
Studied in Munich with Heinrich Knirr, then at the Kunstakademie under Franz von Stuck
1911
Met Alexej Jawlensky, Vasily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, and other avant-garde figures
1914
Helped found the Neue Münchner Secession
1920
Appointed to the faculty of the Bauhaus
1924
The Blaue Vier, consisting of Lyonel Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee, was founded
1921–1926
Taught at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany
1926–1931
Taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany
1931
Taught at the Akademie, Düsseldorf, Germany
1933
Forced by the Nazis to leave his position in Düsseldorf
1940
Died: June 29, Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland

Exhibitions

2008
Paperweight, Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin
2007
Klang im Bild, Opelvillen, Russelsheim
2006
Picasso to Pop: Aspects of Modern Art, The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
2005
Group Show, Galleria Torbandena, Trieste
2004
Der Blaue Reiter, Geschichte und Ideen, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus & Kunstbau, Munich
2003
Masterworks from El Greco to Picasso in the Phillips Collection, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ
2002
"Nur Fabre" Galerie Thomas, Munich
2001
Works on Paper, Victoria Miro Gallery, London (England)
2000
Mensura, Galeria Emma Molina, Garza Garcia, NL
1999
Masterprints, Galerie nachst St. Stephan - Rosemaire Schwarzwalden, Vienna
1979
Paul Klee: Das Werk der Jahre 1919-1933, Gemalde, Handzeichnungen, Druckgraphik, Kunsthalle, Cologne, Germany
1974
Homage à Schönberg, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
1973
Paul Klee: The Bauhaus Years, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA (solo)
1967
Paul Klee: A Retrospective, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (solo)
1967
Paul Klee, Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland (solo)
1963
Paul Klee in Review, The Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
1956–1957
Paul Klee, Hamburger Kunstverein, Germany (solo)
1956
Paul Klee, Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (solo)
1940
Klee exhibition, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
1937
Entartete Kunst, Dessau, Germany
1935
Klee exhibitions, Bern and Basel, Switzerland (solo)
1930
Museum of Modern Art, New York
1925
Galerie Vavin-Raspail, Paris, France; Galerie Pierre, Paris, France
1924
Société Anonyme, New York
1920
Paul Klee: Retrospective, Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, Germany
1913
Erste deutsche Herbstsalon, Der Sturm Gallery, Berlin, Germany
1912
Second Blaue Reiter exhibition, Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, Germany
1911
Moderne Galerie, Munich, Germany
1910
Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland; Kunsthaus, Zurich (solo)
1906
Munich Secession, Germany