Monday, March 2, 2015

Paul Klee, Rising Sun

Paul Klee, Rising Sun, 1907
12 x 9.6 in.

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was an extremely influential Swiss German painter who was a pioneer of Modernism.  Born in Switzerland to two musicians, he studied music as well until his teen years when he switched to visual arts, partly out of rebellion and partly because modern music did not speak to him.  As a musician, he was bound to past tradition, but as an artist he was excited by the radical and avant-garde.  Klee studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and, like many artists and other young men of the period, traveled Europe extensively.  He was particularly moved by his visit to Rome, responding deeply to the colors of Italy.  In 1911, Klee met August Macke, Franz Marc, and Wassily Kandinsky, founders of the German Modernist group, Der Blaue Reiter.  Klee joined the group and exhibited at their second exhibition.  He formed a particularly strong friendship with Kandinsky, and they paved the way for much of modern art.  Like Kandinsky, Klee wrote extensively about art, and his notebooks have been invaluable for the study of his work and the ideas of the time.  Throughout his career, Klee explored many different aspects of color and shape.  His work combines many different styles, using expressionism, cubism, and surrealism, as well as exploring Orientalism.  In part because of his stylistic eclecticism, and in part because of the unusual methods he employed, Klee's work is difficult to classify.  He often alludes to poetry and music, as well as implying deep philosophical contemplation.  Rising Sun is an early work, painted in Bern when Klee was recently married and his art career was moving slowly.  It is rather different from his matures work, showing a softer hand and certainly a less clear intent and direction.  However that gives the piece some of its appeal; it is free and unconstrained by ideology, simply a pure expression of line and color.  There is a haphazardness here (which stands opposed to the grid-like structure that characterizes many of his works), with everything at odd angles.  There is also something almost tribal about the painting; the symbolic nature of the sun is fascinating and gives the painting a visceral intensity. While it differs significantly from Klee's mature works, this small painting is a beautiful expression of the young man's mind and spirit, and an early indication of the great work to come.

1 comment: