German Expressionism

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Paul Klee

German, born Switzerland. 1879–1940

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

Painter, draftsman, printmaker, theoretician. Raised in Bern, then studied art in Munich, settling there in 1906. In 1911 met August Macke as well as Vasily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who included him the following year in the almanac Der Blaue Reiter and the group's second exhibition. Prior to 1914 concentrated mostly on black-and-white prints and drawings. A trip to Tunisia with Macke and Swiss painter Louis Moilliet in 1914 provided a breakthrough that enabled him to begin working with color, first in watercolor and then oil, and to synthesize recent developments in abstraction with his own highly personal and imaginative vision. Extraordinarily prolific and inventive, his work was often small in scale with a lyricism and humor that reflected his interest in the art of children and the insane. Served in the German army from 1916 to 1918, but never saw action on front. From 1921 to 1931, taught at the Bauhaus; left there to teach at Düsseldorf Academy; Nazis dismissed him from post in 1933, and he emigrated to Bern.

Made 109 prints in total. Before the war, most were etchings printed in only a few proofs each; from 1919 to 1925 worked in lithography, often produced in larger editions as commissions for group portfolios, periodicals, and books; then from 1928 to 1932 resumed etching before ceasing printmaking entirely.

Nazis declared him degenerate and seized 102 works from German collections.

Selected Bibliography

Anger, Jenny. Paul Klee and the Decorative in Modern Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Glaesemer, Jürgen. Paul Klee: Handzeichnungen. 3 vols. Bern: Kunstmuseum Berne, 1973–84.

Geelhaar, Christian, et al. The Graphic Legacy of Paul Klee. Exh. cat. Annadale on-Hudson, NY: Bard College, 1983.

Helfenstein, Josef, and Christian Rümelin, eds. Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. 9 vols. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999–2004.

Kornfeld, Eberhard W. Verzeichnis des graphischen Werkes von Paul Klee. 2nd rev. ed. Bern: Kornfeld, 2005.

Lanchner, Carolyn, ed. Paul Klee. Exh. cat. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1987.

Heather Hess

Printed by Paul Klee

  • Paul Klee. Suicide on the Bridge (Der Selbstmörder auf der Brücke). 1913
    Paul Klee
    Suicide on the Bridge (Der Selbstmörder auf...
    Paul Klee. Suicide on the Bridge (Der Selbstmörder auf der Brücke). 1913
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