Paul Klee

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The more horrifying this world becomes, the more art becomes abstract; while a world at peace produces realistic art.

Paul Klee (1879-12-18 - 1940-06-29) was a Swiss painter of German nationality. He was influenced by many different art styles in his work, including expressionism, cubism and surrealism.

Sourced

When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.
  • My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones.
    • Diary entry (Munich, 1901), # 136, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 [University of California Press, 1968, ISBN 0-520-00653-4] (p. 48)
  • The main thing now is not to paint precociously but to be, or at least become, an individual. The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.
  • When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.
    • Diary entry (December 1904), # 583
To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.
  • The beautiful, which is perhaps inseparable from art, is not after all tied to the subject, but to the pictorial representation. In this way and in no other does art overcome the ugly without avoiding it.
    • Diary entry (December 1905), # 733
Nature can afford to be prodigal in everything, the artist must be frugal down to the last detail.
  • To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.
    • Diary entry (March 1906), # 759, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918
  • He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise, i.e., cannot do something else.
    • Diary entry (Munich, 1908), # 825, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 (p. 227)
  • Nature can afford to be prodigal in everything, the artist must be frugal down to the last detail.
    Nature is garrulous to the point of confusion, let the artist be truly taciturn.
    • Diary entry (Munich, 1909), # 857, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 (p. 236)
  • All the things an artist must be: poet, explorer of nature, philosopher!
    • Diary entry (Spring 1911), # 895
  • These are primitive beginnings in art, such as one usually finds in ethnographic collections or at home in one's nursery. Do not laugh, reader! Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in their having it! The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us; and they must be preserved from corruption at an early age. Parallel phenomena are provided by the works of the mentally diseased; neither childish behaviour nor madness are insulting words here, as they commonly are. All this is to be taken very seriously, more seriously than all the public galleries, when it comes to reforming today's art.
    • Diary entry (January 1912), # 905, quoting his "Munich Art Letter" in the journal Die Alpen
  • Colour possesses me. It will always possess me. That is the meaning of this happy hour: colour and I are one. I am a painter.
  • The more horrible this world (as today, for instance), the more abstract our art, whereas a happy world brings forth an art of the here and now.
    • Diary entry (1915), # 951
    • Variant: The more horrifying this world becomes (as it is these days) the more art becomes abstract; while a world at peace produces realistic art.
    • Variant: The more horrifying this world becomes, the more art becomes abstract; while a world at peace produces realistic art. This was quoted in the speech "Between Two Ages: The Meaning Of Our Times" by Wm. Van Dusen Wishard
I cannot be grasped in the here and now. For I reside just as much with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat closer to the heart of creation than usual. But not nearly close enough.
  • Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.
    • Diary entry (January/February 1918), # 1104, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918 (p. 387)
  • Diesseitig bin ich gar nicht fassbar. Denn ich wohne grad so gut bei den Toten, wie bei den Ungeborenen. Etwas näher dem Herzen der Schöpfung als üblich. Und noch lange nicht nahe genug.
    • I cannot be grasped in the here and now. For I reside just as much with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat closer to the heart of creation than usual. But not nearly close enough.
      • Exhibition catalogue, Galerie Goltz, Munich, published in the gallery's house journal Der Ararat (May 1920). These words were later used as Klee's epitaph.
    • Variant translation: I cannot be understood at all on this earth. For I live as much with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat closer to the heart of creation than usual. But not nearly close enough.
      • As quoted in Paul Klee : His Work and Thought (1991) by Marcel Franciscono, p. 5
  • Color is primarily Quality. Secondly, it is also Weight, for it has not only color value but also brilliance. Thirdly, it is Measure, for besides Quality and Weight, it has its limits, its area, and its extent, all of which may be measured.

    Tone value is primarily Weight, but in its extent and its boundaries, it is also Measure.

    Line, however, is solely Measure.

    • "On Modern Art," lecture, Kunstverein, Jena (1924-01-26), trans. Paul Findlay in Paul Klee: On Modern Art (London, 1948)
Things appear to assume a broader and more diversified meaning, often seemingly contradicting the rational experience of yesterday. There is a striving to emphasize the essential character of the accidental.

Creative Credo (1920)

Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] (1920)
  • Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar.
    • Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.
    • Section I
  • A tendency toward the abstract is inherent in linear expression: graphic imagery being confined to outlines has a fairy-like quality and at the same time can achieve great precision.
    • Section I
  • The pictorial work was born of movement, is itself recorded movement, and is assimilated through movement (eye muscles).
    • Section IV
  • Formerly we used to represent things visible on earth, things we either liked to look at or would have liked to see. Today we reveal the reality that is behind visible things, thus expressing the belief that the visible world is merely an isolated case in relation to the universe and that there are many more other, latent realities. Things appear to assume a broader and more diversified meaning, often seemingly contradicting the rational experience of yesterday. There is a striving to emphasize the essential character of the accidental.
    • Section V

Unsourced

  • Genius is the defect in the system
    • Klee's reference to teaching or learning art forms and styles.

External links

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