Artist Paul Klee: Facts, Famous Paintings & Drawings

Instructor: Amber Chiozza

Amber has taught Art History, Humanities, and Art Appreciation, and has a master's degree in Book Arts and Printmaking.

Paul Klee was a German-Swiss artist known for his colorful, highly original, and often childlike drawings and paintings. Continue reading to learn more about Paul Klee's art and life, as well as the opportunity to look at some of his key paintings.

Overview of the Artist

People often associate simple abstracted forms and stick figures with primitive drawings or lack of skill. However, in the right hands, they can also be exquisite forms of expression. The artist, Paul Klee, was one such pair of hands in that he remains well known for not only his beautiful use of color, but also for capturing the purity and freedom of children's drawings. In this lesson, you'll learn about the influences that led to his unique style and methods of abstraction.

Early Life

Paul Klee was born near Bern, Switzerland, in 1879. Under the influence of his parents, both of whom were professional musicians, Klee embarked on a lifelong relationship with music and learned how to play the violin. In the process, Klee found his true passion: drawing. Although his parents insisted that he pursue a career in music, Klee decided to follow his interests in the visual arts. At the age of 19, he travelled to Munich to study drawing and painting under the German artist, Franz von Stuck. Stuck's dream-like and symbolic art influenced much of Klee's early work, including the element of fantasy found in his drawings. While in Munich, Klee also met his future wife, Lily Stumpf, who would encourage and support him throughout his early, unsuccessful career.

Artistic Career

Klee's early life as an artist took place in seclusion; during this time he spent most of his time on small black and white drawings and symbolist works. In 1911, his situation changed when he met Der Blaue Reiter, or the Blue Rider, a group of artists founded by Wassily Kandinsky. Klee and Kandinsky, who was also a skilled musician, became strong friends; both the support of Der Blaue Reiter and Kandinsky helped to advance Klee's career. Additional creative influences included the work of Georges Braque, Robert Delaunay, and Pablo Picasso. As a result of these influences, Klee's work became more abstract and led to a trip to Tunisia that would change his use of color entirely, as shown in 'Southern (Tunisian) Gardens', painted in 1919.

Paul Klee. Southern (Tunisian) Gardens. 1919.
Klee - Southern (Tunisian) Gardens

In 1916, Klee was called to serve in World War I, though he never had to experience any real battle. While he was away, his works were shown in a Berlin gallery, and for the first time, Klee enjoyed a healthy income from his art. After the war, he spent the ten years in Germany, where he taught at the Bauhaus, a school of architecture, art, and design. However, the rise of the National Socialist or Nazi Party had a detrimental impact on his career. He was condemned both personally and professionally by the Nazis, who referred to his work as 'degenerate' and forced him to leave his instructor's position at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf.

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