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Short Biography of Paul Klee (1879-1940)

Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee near Bern on 18 December 1879, the second son of Hans and Ida Klee, née Frick. His father taught music at the teachers’ college in Bern-Hofwil, his mother was a singer.

Paul Klee attended the municipal grammar school in Bern until 1898. After his school-leaving exam he moved to Munich, where he studied at the private art school of Heinrich Knirr and at the Academy under Franz Stuck.

After a six-month field trip to Italy he returned to Bern in 1902. It was during this period that he created his Inventionen (Inventions), satirical sketches filled with criticism of society and culture. Klee developed a style of drawing characterised by grotesque, distorted shapes.

In 1906 he moved to Munich, and the same year married his fiancée, the Munich pianist Lily Stumpf. Felix Paul, Paul and Lily Klee’s only child, was born in 1907.

In 1911 Klee began to keep a handwritten catalogue of works for his artistic output. In Munich he became acquainted with Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, the founders of the Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) art movement. Through his involvement with cubism Klee began to move towards abstract representation and to add greater depth of differentiation to his palette by using watercolour painting.

In 1914 Klee travelled to Tunisia with August Macke and Louis Moilliet.

In 1916 Klee was called up as a reservist by the German army and served with a flying recruit corps. It was during World War I that he met with his first commercial success, selling a number of small-format, poetically whimsical works.

In 1920 he was called to the post of lecturer at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar by Walter Gropius, and later moved to Dessau in 1925 after its closure.

In 1930 Klee left the Bauhaus in Dessau and was appointed professor at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts. In April 1933 he was suspended from office by the Director, a Nazi sympathiser; in December Paul and Lily Klee immigrated to Bern.

The first signs of a serious illness began to appear in 1935. It was only diagnosed after his death as an incurable form of progressive scleroderma. During the last few years of his life in Bern Paul Klee created an impressive body of work consisting of large-form paintings and extensive series of drawings.

Paul Klee died on 29 June 1940 at the Kurhaus Viktoria in Orselina near Locarno – six days before the Bern City Council’s decision to approve his application for naturalisation, an agenda decision dragged on by the authorities. - Source


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