Paul Klee was an artist that defied traditional categories. Born in 1879 in Switzerland, Klee was a talented violinist and visual artist. By his teens, Klee had become enamored with visual arts and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. However, it was in 1914, inspired by a trip to Tunisia, that he had his first big breakthrough. His experience in Tunisia inspired Klee to create his first abstract work, In the Style of Kairouan. From this point, Klee's style began to evolve rapidly. By 1917 Klee had caught the eye of critics who began to proclaim him as one of the best of the new German artists. Klee went on to teach at the prestigious Bauhaus school of art with his friend, and fellow artist, Wassily Kandinsky.
Paul Klee used a variety of techniques and materials for his paintings. Although a natural draftsman, Klee would often combine his talents with other medium. He would work with watercolor, oil paint, ink, pastels, and etchings, often combining several mediums in one work. Klee would also incorporate different materials into his art. He was known to include linen, foil, cardboard, fabrics, and newsprint. Klee was unafraid to combine disparate techniques and styles to bring across his message.
Klee's style consistently crossed boundaries making it difficult for critics to classify his work. He has variously been described as an expressionist, cubist, surrealist, and an abstract artist. One of the things that make him so difficult to classify is the fact that Klee would often separate himself from other artists while he worked. This allowed him to interpret new artistic trends in his own way, uninfluenced by the work of his peers. Unencumbered, Klee continually developed his style, drawing from mythological themes, geometric forms, parody, dreams, and his background in music.
Klee's unclassifiable work continues to influence artists today. Paul Klee's work has been interpreted in musical arrangements and his style adopted by modern artists. As Marcel Duchamp once commented, “A deep understanding of dealing with watercolours to paint a personal method in oil, structured in decorative shapes, let Klee stand out in the contemporary art and make him incomparable.”
— Shane Hallnan
Shane Hallnan is an emerging museum professional.