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  • Paul Klee
    Dec 18, 1879 – Jun 29, 1940
  • The Golden Fish - Paul Klee was a Swiss painter of German nationality, whose personal, often gently humorous works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism.
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The Golden Fish
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  • The Golden Fish

  • Paul Klee
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  • 1925
    Oil and watercolor on paper, mounted on cardboard
    50 x 69 cm (19 1/8 x 27 in)
    Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany.

    Paul Klee was an introverted Swiss painter who spent most of his adult life in Germany until he was expelled by the Nazis in 1933. His work is impossible to clarify, except to say that it is hardly ever wholly abstract, but equally, never truly realistic. He had a natural sensitivity to music, the least material of the arts, and it runs through all his work, clarifying his spellbinding color and dematerializing his images.

    Paul Klee was one of the greatest colorists in the story of painting, and a skilled deployer of line. His gravest pictures may have an undercurrent of humor, and his powers of formal invention seem infinite. After making an early choice whether to pursue painting or music as a career, he became one of the most poetic and inventive of modern artists. He taught at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and then at the DЭsseldorf Academy. Until his expulsion from DЭsseldorf by the Nazis, Klee painted and drew on a very small scale, yet the small size of his pictures does not affect their internal greatness.

    The Golden Fish glides through the kingdom of its underwater freedom, all lesser fish leaving a clear space for its gleaming body. This is a magical fish with runic signs upon his body, scarlet fins, and a great pink flower of an eye. He hangs majestically in the deep, dark blue magic of the sea, which is luminous with secret images of fertility. The great fish draws the mysteriousness of his secret world into significance. We may not understand the significance, but it is there. The sea and its creatures are arranged in glorious homage, belittled but also magnified by this bright presence. This quiet nobility, the brightness, the solitude, the general respect: all are true of Klee himself. Whether the art world knew it or not, he was their "golden fish''.

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Other paintings by Paul Klee:

The Festival of the Asters
The Festival of the Asters
The Future Man
The Future Man
The Grey One and the Coast
The Grey One and the Coast
The Invention
The Invention
Paul KleePaul Klee was born on December 18, 1879, in Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland, into a family of musicians. His childhood love of music was always to remain profoundly important in his life and work. From 1898 to 1901, Klee studied in Munich. Upon completing his schooling, he traveled to Italy in the first in a series of trips abroad that nourished his visual sensibilities. He settled in Bern in 1902. A series of his satirical etchings was exhibited at the Munich Secession in 1906. That same year, Klee married Lily Stumpf, a pianist, and moved to Munich. Here he gained exposure to Modern art.

Klee met Alexej Jawlensky, Vasily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, and other avant-garde figures in 1911; he participated in important shows of advanced art in Munich and Berlin. In 1912, he visited Paris for the second time, where he saw the work of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and met Robert Delaunay. Klee helped found the Neue Munchner Secession in 1914. Color became central to his art only after a revelatory trip to Tunisia in 1914.

In 1920, a major Klee retrospective was held in Munich. Klee taught at the Bauhaus in Weimar from 1921 to 1926 and in Dessau from 1926 to 1931. During his tenure, he was in close contact with other Bauhaus masters, such as Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger. In 1924, the Blaue Vier, consisting of Lyonel Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee, was founded. Among his notable exhibitions of this period were his first in the United States in 1924; his first major show in Paris the following year and an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1930. Klee went to Dusseldorf to teach at the Akademie in 1931, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. Forced by the Nazis to leave his position in Dusseldorf in 1933, Klee settled in Bern the following year. Klee died on June 29, 1940, in Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland.