Paul Klee



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Born on 18 December 1879 in Münchenbuchsee near Bern, Switzerland; († 29 June 1940 in Muralto, Switzerland), Paul Klee was a German artist whose work is classified as Expressionism, Constructivism, Cubism, and Surrealism. His art used elements of many styles, which is why his artistic work is considered so unique.

Paul Klee’s career and early work

Paul Klee was born on 18 December 1897, the son of a music teacher and a singer. In 1898, he began studying graphic art at Heinrich Knirr’s public school in Munich. In 1900, he transferred to Franz von Stuck’s painting class at the Munich Art Academy. After a trip to Italy in 1901-1902, the young artist returned to his parents’ house near Bern in 1902. In 1906 Klee married the pianist Lily Stumpf and the couple moved to Munich. Just one year later, their son Felix was born. In 1910 the artist took part in various group exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Bern, the Kunsthalle Basel and the Kunsthaus Zürich. Almost exclusively graphic works by him are exhibited there.

His acquaintance with Wassily Kandinsky and August Macke in 1911 led Klee to join the editorial group “Der Blaue Reiter”. In 1912 the artist was represented in the second exhibition of the Blaue Reiter with 17 graphic works. The exhibition is held at the Goltz Gallery in Munich.

The breakthrough to colour in Paul Klee’s work

A study trip to Tunisia in 1914 with August Macke and Louis Moilliet marked a turning point in Klee’s artistic work. During this trip to Tunis, the artist conscientiously kept a diary. The Arabian city architecture with its characteristic rectangular colour surfaces left a lasting impression on the artist, and he discovered colour for himself, after having worked largely in monochrome before the trip. After the trip, he created further works inspired by his experiences during the trip. Klee was drafted into the First World War in 1916. Fortunately, he was spared a deployment to the front and could continue to devote himself to art.

Paul Klee at the Bauhaus

In 1920 Paul Klee was appointed by Walter Gropius to the Bauhaus in Weimar. Accepting the invitation, Klee was in charge of the bookbinding workshop from 1921 to 1925 and the metal workshop from 1922.

Klee’s first solo exhibition opened in the USA at the beginning of 1924. In the same year Paul Klee, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky and Alexej von Jawlensky founded the artists’ group “Die Blaue Vier” (The Blue Four) in Weimar, which had already been planned in 1919. Galka Scheyer acts as the group’s agent.

When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, Paul Klee and his family also moved there in 1926. From 1927 to 1930 he taught the free painting class there. His theory of “Bildnerische Formlehre” had a lasting influence on the work at the Bauhaus.

Paul Klee’s late work

From 1931 Klee took up a professorship at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. However, after the National Socialists came to power in 1933, he was dismissed without notice and his art was declared “degenerate”. He then immigrated to Switzerland with his family.

In 1935 the Kunsthalle Bern shows a large retrospective. In the same year the artist fell seriously ill. It was not until 1937 that the artist had a productive creative phase again. In the following three years he produced a considerable body of late work. He dealt with his desolate state of health by depicting suffering figures. Paul Klee died on 29 June 1940 during a stay at a health resort in Muralto.

Throughout his life, Paul Klee’s aim was for his pictures to communicate through colour, shapes and lines. Klee left behind an œuvre of around 9,000 works, 1,000 of which he created in the last five years of his life.


1898 – Klee studies at Heinrich Knirr’s private school.

1900 – Studied at the Munich Academy under Franz von Stuck.

1901/02 – Italy Trip.

1902 – Klee returns to Bern.

1905 – Study trip to Paris.

1906 – Klee marries Lily Stumpf and moves to Munich.

1910 – Participation in a group exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunsthaus Zürich and Kunsthalle Basel.

1912 – Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky ask Klee to take part in the second exhibition of the Blaue Reiter. Klee travels to Paris and makes the acquaintance of Robert Delaunay and Henri Le Fauconnier.

1914 – Tunis Journey with August Macke and Louis Moilliet Co-founder of the Munich Secession.

1916/1918 – Military service.

1919 – First major solo exhibition at Galerie Goltz, Munich.

1920 – Walter Gropius appoints Klee to the Bauhaus in Weimar.

1921/1925 – Klee is in charge of the bookbinding and metal workshop.

1924 – First exhibition in New York. Together with Kandinsky, Feininger, and Jawlensky, Klee formes the artists’ group Blue Four.

1925 – The Bauhaus moves to Dessau.

1926 – Klee moves to Dessau with his family.

1927/1930 – Klee teaches the free painting class at the Bauhaus.

1929 – Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the National Gallery and the Alfred Flechtheim Gallery, Berlin.

1931/1933 – Klee leaves the Bauhaus and takes up a professorship at the Düsseldorf Academy.

1933 – Under pressure from the National Socialists, Klee is dismissed from his post and immigrates to Switzerland with his family.

1937 – Retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern.




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