Artist Paul Klee could surely have been dubbed the hardest-working man in colour. Not only did the iconic artist produce over 9,000 known artworks during his lifetime, but his notes, sketches and lectures on colour theory which he used for teaching run to nearly 4,000 pages. Now this whole, fascinating resource, is available to view online, providing an insight not only into his working methods and ideas about colour, but also just how productive he was.
Klee is inextricably linked with colour, with his paintings often seeming like a colour lecture in their own right, combining a startling variety of media with bold, polychromatic compositions. After returning from a trip to Tunisia in 1914 he famously stated, “Colour and I are one. I am a painter.” The notebooks capture just how deeply this statement ran, with the pages filled with observations, diagrams and notes exploring the science of colour and how the artist might convey it. The art critic Herbert Read described the importance of the books in terms of science, rather than art – “the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist – it constitutes the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton’s in the realm of physics.”
The personal notebooks have been made available to view online by the Zentrum Paul Klee, and contain the notes used by Klee for lectures he delivered at the Bauhaus school in the decade between 1921 and 1931. The Bauhaus was at the forefront of Modernism in art, design and architecture, and Klee’s exhaustive study of colour theory can be seen as part of the foundation for Modernism, with ideas from Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism all appearing in his utterly distinctive canvases over time.
If all this sounds a little dry, then perhaps you’d prefer to check out Klee’s other great artistic project – some fifty puppets which he made for his son between 1916 and 1925, explored in greater detail here.