Boats in the Flood Paul Klee Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Paul Klee painted Boats in the Flood in 1937. This painting uses blue and lots of it, to express a sense of boats tossed about in waves that are more powerful than they are.

It evokes an immediate reaction from the viewer with its strong sense of powerful motion.

Klee may have painted this from the shore. It has a sense of detachment that may have been harder to produce if he was in one of the boats that were being shifted around by extreme winds. The turmoil portrayed in the painting would be hard to stomach for an experienced seaman.

As an artist who favoured Abstract forms over realism, Klee is equipped to bring out the elements of high energy and unsteadiness that would normally accompany such an experience.

He uses brush strokes that are quick and give the sense of urgency felt in unusual weather. While some admire tropical storms such as hurricanes and the possibility of danger that accompanies them, Klee does not seem to have that in mind.

The artist knows that danger is inherent in the flood and can result in loss of life. He seems to appreciate that anyone in a boat in this weather would feel uncertain of which way to go. This may be brought to mind with the different directions of his strokes. These help to create an overall sense of not knowing where to turn.

The boats are directionless. They are simply spinning first in one direction then in another. It must be difficult to guide them through and get to a safe place in such a state. Klee is known for Expressionism and with his color choices and the type of brush strokes he has applied to the flood waters, it is easier to focus on how the viewer would feel in such a situation.

In some of his paintings, such as Refuge, Klee creates a place of calm. he has not tried to create that sense in this painting. He has a few horizontal lines in the piece. Those help to remind the viewer that eventually, flood waters will recede. When that happens, things will be calm again and those who have suffered through the flood will be able to rest.