Paul Klee


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Klee’s Tunisian transformation: A reassessment of form and color

The year 1914 witnessed a pivotal transformation in the artistic output of Paul Klee. A sojourn to Tunisia, undertaken in the company of fellow artists August Macke and Louis Moilliet, proved to be a catalyst for a significant departure from his previous representational style.

Prior to this trip, Klee’s oeuvre exhibited a demonstrably more mimetic quality. However, the vivid landscapes and intricate architectural details encountered in North Africa served to ignite a newfound fascination with chromatic expression and abstraction. This influence is demonstrably evident in the watercolors produced during the excursion, such as “Red and White Domes,” where previously representational forms are deconstructed and reassembled into abstract grids of color.

Klee himself recognized the profound impact of this experience. In a revised diary entry, he famously declared, “Colour possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Colour and I are one. I am a painter.”

The years that followed this artistic epiphany witnessed Klee’s progressive embrace of chromatic liberation. His works assumed a more abstract character, with geometric forms and a playful manipulation of perspective replacing meticulously rendered depictions. This stylistic shift is demonstrably evident in pieces like “Senecio” (1916), where a whimsical world unfolds through the vibrant interplay of color and geometric forms.

While the outbreak of World War I undeniably cast a pall over this period, Klee’s artistic spirit demonstrably continued to flourish. His Tunisian experience had served to unlock a new visual vocabulary, one that would propel him towards becoming a recognized pioneer of modern art.

Source: Zentrum Paul Klee, 2024 (Klee in Wartime , 06.12.17 – 03.06.18)