Paul Klee: born 134 years ago on 18 December 1879.



He came from a generation that would shape the modern world. Albert Einstein (who published the Theory of Relativity in Bern in 1905) was born in March 1879, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1880 and 1881 respectively.

In January 1924, Paul Klee delivered a carefully prepared lecture at the Kunstverein – the public art gallery – in Jena, a city in central Germany. He made a case for the artist’s need for freedom of the imagination. This was a familiar theme, but one that he articulated with especial clarity. It is typical that he pointed out that, while everyone would recognise that there is a relationship between the buried root system and the visible crown of a tree, no one would expect them to be identical. In much the same way, Klee argued, artists act as interpreters of the worlds that feed their art but should not be expected to be identical with the visible. (via


Paul Klee’s persistent shifts in style, technique, and subject matter indicate a deliberate and highly playful evasion of aesthetic categorization. Nevertheless, it is virtually impossible to confuse a work by Klee with one by any other artist, even though many have emulated his idiosyncratic, enigmatic art. So accepted was his work that Klee was embraced over the years by the Blue Rider group, the European Dada contingent, the Surrealists, and the Bauhaus faculty, with whom he taught for a decade in Weimar and Dessau.

Although much of Klee’s work is figurative, compositional design nearly always preceded narrative association. The artist often transformed his experiments in tonal value and line into visual anecdotes. Red Balloon, for example, is at once a cluster of delicately colored, floating geometric shapes and a charming cityscape. Runner at the Goal is an essay in simultaneity; overlapping and partially translucent bars of color illustrate the consecutive gestures of a figure in motion. The flailing arms and sprinting legs add a comic touch to this figure, on whose forehead the number “one” promises a winning finish. (via

Runner at the Goal (Läufer am Ziel), 1921.

Red Balloon (Roter Ballon), 1922.

(From the Song of Songs) Version II ((Aus dem hohen Lied) (II. Fassung)), 1921.

Dispute 1929

Assyrian game 1923