Paul Klee
A Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorous
works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry, Paul Klee, b.

Dec. 18, 1879, d. June 29, 1940, is difficult to classify. Primitive art,
surrealism, cubism, and children\'s art all seem blended into his small-scale,
delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings. His family was very interested in
the arts. The jobs that Paul\'s parents had were strange for 1879. His mom helped
support the family by giving piano lessons. His father did the housework. He
cooked, cleaned, and painted. Paul\'s grandma taught him how to paint. After much
hesitation he chose to study art, not music, and he attended the Munich Academy
in 1900. Klee later toured Italy (1901-02), responding enthusiastically to Early

Christian and Byzantine art. Klee was a watercolorist, and etcher, who was one
of the most original masters of modern art. Belonging to no specific art
movement, he created works known for their fantastic dream images, wit, and
imagination. These combine satirical, grotesque, and surreal elements and reveal
the influence of Francisco de Goya and James Ensor, both of whom Klee admired.

Two of his best-known etchings, dating from 1903, are Virgin in a Tree and Two

Men Meet, Each Believing the Other to Be of Higher Rank. The paintings of Klee
are difficult to classify. His earliest works were pencil landscape studies that
showed the influence of impressionism. Until 1912 he also produced many
black-and-white etchings; the overtones of fantasy and satire in these works
showed the influence of 20th-century expressionism as well as of such master
printmakers as Francisco Goya and William Blake. Klee often incorporated letters
and numerals into his paintings, but he also produced series of works that
explore mosaic and other effects. "Klee\'s career was a search for the
symbols and metaphors that would make this belief visible. More than any other
painter outside the Surrealist movement (with which his work had many affinities
- its interest in dreams, in primitive art, in myth, and cultural incongruity),
he refused to draw hard distinctions between art and writing. Indeed, many of
his paintings are a form of writing: they pullulate with signs, arrows, floating
letters, misplaced directions, commas, and clefs; their code for any object,
from the veins of a leaf to the grid pattern of Tunisian irrigation ditches,
makes no attempt at sensuous description, but instead declares itself to be a
purely mental image, a hieroglyph existing in emblematic space. So most of the
time Klee could get away with a shorthand organization that skimped the spatial
grandeur of high French modernism while retaining its unforced delicacy of mood.

Klee\'s work did not offer the intense feelings of Picasso’s, or the formal
mastery of Matisse’s. The spidery, exact line, crawling and scratching around
the edges of his fantasy, works in a small compass of post-Cubist overlaps,
transparencies, and figure- field play-offs. In fact, most of Klee\'s ideas about
pictorial space came out of Robert Dulaunay’s work, especially the Windows.

The paper, hospitable to every felicitous accident of blot and puddle in the
watercolor washes, contains the images gently. As the art historian Robert

Rosenblum has said, \'Klee\'s particular genius [was] to be able to take any
number of the principal Romantic motifs and ambitions that, by the early
twentieth century, had often swollen into grotesquely Wagnerian dimensions, and
translate them into a language appropriate to the diminutive scale of a child\'s
enchanted world.\' After his marriage in 1906 to the pianist Lili Stumpf, Klee
settled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art. His wife, Lily,
gave music lessons, while Paul babysat their only son, he was a good babysitter.

Klee painted in a unique and personal style; no one else painted like he did. He
used pastels, tempera, watercolor, and a combination of oil and watercolor, as
well as different backgrounds. Besides using the canvas that he usually painted
on he used paper, jute, cotton, and wrapping paper. A turning point in Klee\'s
career was his visit to Tunisia with Macke and Louis Molliet in 1914. He was so
overwhelmed by the intense light there that he wrote: "Color has taken
possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold
of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are
one. I am a painter." He now built up compositions of colored squares that
have the radiance of the mosaics he saw on his Italian sojourn. The watercolor

Red and White Domes (1914; Collection of Clifford Odets, New