Watercolours 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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No discussion of modern art is complete without due mention of Paul Klee.

His career spanning from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, he was one of the key figures in overturning stagnant standards and expectations within the art world and creating a new form of art, one that suited a new age in which old certainties no longer existed and society was facing an unknown future.

Klee remains noted in particular for his usage of abstraction; some of his paintings are representational, although even in these cases the inventiveness of his restless mind is readily apparent.

The Seaside in the Rain depicts a loose landscape, splashes and mounds of colour forming a rough impression of an outside environment. The rain referred to in the title is not depicted in literal terms but rather evoked through loose-edged watercolours. The shapes in the painting seem as though they are about to blur into one another, forming a single liquid mass.

Rain, and the liquid properties of rain, forms a recurring theme in Klee's work. In "Rainy Day" abstract lines overlap one another to give the impression of shapes - namely, hills, plants an clouds in the sky. The colours fades from grey at the top to a green-grey below, suggesting a sky and land, but are shot through by a dynamic line half zig-zag, half swirl - of blue.

While Klee was interested in the natural world and exteriors, some of his paintings draw upon very different subject matter. In watercolours such as "Split Coloured Rectangles", Klee moves to pure abstraction. Thanks to his seemingly random but actually considered placement of line and colour, shapes and forms appear to pop out at us, the illusion of three dimensions - of depth and height - being created by the two-dimensional forms.

There is little question that Klee felt a playful fondness for blurring lines between the abstract and the representational. One watercolour of his, "Sailing Boats", initially seems to b an assortment of meaningless shapes. But then the eye and brain will pick out specific objects: the rough semicircles are hulls of boats, and the triangular shapes are sails. All of this takes place against a clear sea of blue watercolour. The subject matter and execution seem almost childish, but yet the painting is informed by a distinctly adult drive to challenge the perceptions of the viewer.

Another notable trait in Klee's work is his tendency to combine the softness and ambiguity of watercolours with hard lines. In "Insula Dulcamara", one of his most confrontational works, a background of pastel watercolours- greens, pinks and blues - plays host to a set of black lines forming bizarre shapes.

Some of the images formed by these lines can be recognised, such as the structure in the middle hat suggests a human face, but the true interpretation of the image as a whole is left down to the individual observer.

Faces, and the human ability to detect faces within random patterns, seem to have amused Klee. In "Cat and Bird" an unmistakable feline face peers out of another assemblage of hard liens and soft, blurry watercolours. The semi-abstract figure of a bird sits atop the cat's forehead, brining a touch of almost cartoonish humour to the composition.

When Paul Klee painted a portrait, it goes without saying that the results would be unusual. "Portrait of a Violet-Eyed Woman" shows a yellow humanoid figure from the neck up, her semi-transparent hair suggesting sheer drapes.

The viewer is drawn immediately to her eyes, the pupils of which are purple rectangles that contrast sharply with the yellow-green hues of the rest of the painting. The viewer's own eyes then wander down to the woman's mouth, where lips and teeth blur together - once again, showing Klee's resistance towards any kind of straightforward representation.

Any true lover of art appreciates the work of Paul Klee. Who, then, could resist the opportunity to browse through his many fascinating watercolours?