Humor, lyricism, and intimacy are some of the qualities that define the imaginative body of work created by Paul Klee. In addition to paintings, Klee made more than one hundred prints, most of which were etchings and lithographs. His interest in printmaking began in his mid-twenties when he returned to his hometown of Bern after studying art at the Munich Academy and in Italy. Determined to make his first independent artistic statement, Klee found that etching provided the structure he needed at a moment when he was discouraged by his unsuccessful efforts at painting.
Between 1903 and 1905 Klee made a series of twelve etchings he called Inventions, which he considered his first significant body of work. Rebelling against the classical training he had received at art school, he radically distorted the anatomy of the female nude in this series. By parodying the typically allegorical treatment of women's bodies, he expressed his alienation from the bourgeois conservatism of mainstream art and his desire to retreat into his imagination. In this example, the woman, draped over a gnarled tree and grotesquely misshapen, is portrayed as the antithesis of a romantic, idealized nude.
This early series of etchings established Klee as an artist and launched his career. Although he later devoted himself to painting, he continued to make prints in which he incorporated ideas from Cubism and the art of children and of the mentally ill. A trip to Tunisia in 1914 awakened a passion for color, which he incorporated in his paintings and prints. It was at the Bauhaus, the famed German school of modern design, where he was invited to teach in 1920, that he developed his more familiar abstract geometric style, utilizing signs and symbols in simplified yet whimsical compositions such as Queen of Hearts.