Death for the Idea 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 uses symbolism in his painting, Death for the Idea

He is known for doing that and it is hard to find a painting in which he does not utilise symbols to some degree in order to get his message across.

Klee was known for using Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism in his work.

While some of his pieces are rich with colour, Death for the Idea is not like that. In fact, this piece is developed using black and white. This gives it an effect which is similar to a single back and white camera shot.

It has a stark effect, as a prone figure lies all alone amidst buildings which seem to have been abandoned long ago. There is no life here and to some extent, it appears that the sun may not shine in this place.

Even though the image is rendered in black and white, there is no use of shadow. Everything is stark and devoid of depth. It is almost as if everything exists on the surface. That is, everything except the figure. The pain experienced by seeing the figure on the ground is felt strongly.

This Expressionist work was completed in 1915. Klee's career was growing steadily at that time. He was exhibiting more often at a wide range of venues.

He was forming friendships with other members of the artistic community who had gained acclaim for their work both locally and abroad.

While he enjoyed using watercolour and did so for many of his works, he did not choose to use this medium in Death for the Idea. His experience as a print maker is shown here, since he chose to explore the theme by using a pen and ink lithograph.

Loss and grief are not easy to bear. Klee uses his skill as an Expressionist to examine the feelings evoked by losing someone who is loved. Pen and ink lithograph was also used for several other works he completed after his friends passed away.

These friends were German Expressionist Auguste Macke and German print maker, the artist Franz Marc. Their deaths had a profound effect on Klee and a fair proportion of the works he created during that time were done using pen and ink lithograph.