Klee, Paul

(1879-1940)
   painter and graphic artist; least political of the Expressionist* school. He was born in Münchenbuchsee (near Bern) to a re-spected musicologist. His mastery of the violin allowed him to join the Bern City Orchestra in his early teens as an unpaid musician. After struggling with a career choice, he left for Munich to study art, becoming Franz von Stuck's student in 1900 at the Kunstakademie (where he met fellow student Wassily Kandinsky*). He returned to Bern in 1902 and spent four years dividing his time between drawing, mostly at Bern's Kunstgewerbemuseum, and performing with the Bern orchestra. He also reviewed music* performances for the Berner Fremdenblatt. After exhibiting several works in 1906 with the Munchner Se-zession, he relocated to Munich.
   Klee joined the Blaue Reiter in 1911. His concurrent attempts to gain ap-pointment at Stuttgart's Kunstakademie foundered. In 1912 he participated in Blaue Reiter's second exhibition, and in 1913 several of his works appeared in the periodical Sturm. It was a 1914 trip with August Macke to Tunis that con-vinced him to discard his graphic style in favor of work dominated by color. Having learned to fly before joining Blaue Reiter, Klee served during 1916-1918 in a Bavarian flying company; the war hardly impacted his work. After years of minor success, his prospects changed in 1919 with an exhibition of the Neue Munchner Sezession, a group he helped found in 1913; by this time his work was largely abstract.
   After signing a three-year contract in 1920 with the art dealer Hans Goltz (the contract was later extended to 1925), Klee opened a solo exhibit at Goltz s Galerie neue Kunst. He also published two monographs, Schopferische Konfes-sion (Creative confession) and Tribune der Kunst der Zeit (Tribune of the art of the time), and was invited by Walter Gropius* to join the Bauhaus* staff— all in 1920. He began teaching in 1921, first as master of the bookbindery and from 1922 in a seminar on glass-painting. But he chiefly taught art composition theory. Meanwhile, his art appeared in 1924 in both New York and Jena. In 1925, when the Bauhaus moved to Dessau, he opened a solo show in Paris and formed an exhibition group (Blaue Vier) with Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger,* and Alexej von Jawlensky. When his contract with Goltz expired, he negotiated an agreement with Alfred Flechtheim s gallery in Berlin.*
   Klee left the Bauhaus in 1930 and joined the faculty of the more traditional Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in 1931. But his tenure was brief. Although he con-cealed his political beliefs, the Nazis searched his home in March 1933 and suspended him from teaching in May 1933. When in September suspension matured into termination, Klee returned to Bern. Despite prior success in Swit-zerland, the label "degenerate artist followed him home; he was unable to regain his citizenship before his death. In 1937 the NSDAP included seventeen of his works in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition.
   REFERENCES:Barron, "Degenerate Art"; NDB, vol. 11; Roskill, Klee; Selz, German Expressionist Painting; Werckmeister, Making of Paul Klee's Career.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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