Paul Klee


Swiss-German Painter of Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism

Author Quotes

What had already been done for music by the end of the eighteenth century has at last been begun for the pictorial arts. Mathematics and physics furnished the means in the form of rules to be followed and to be broken. In the beginning it is wholesome to be concerned with the functions and to disregard the finished form. Studies in algebra, in geometry, in mechanics characterize teaching directed towards the essential and the functional, in contrast to apparent. One learns to look behind the façade, to grasp the root of things. One learns to recognize the undercurrents, the antecedents of the visible. One learns to dig down, to uncover, to find the cause, to analyze.

The longer a line, the more of the time element it contains. Distance is time whereas a surface is apprehended more in terms of the moment.

It is possible that a picture will move far away from Nature and yet find its way back to reality. The faculty of memory, experience at a distance produces pictorial associations.

It is interesting to observe how real the object remains, in spite of all abstractions.

Polyphonic painting is superior to music in that there, the time element becomes a spatial element. The notion of simultaneity stands out even more richly.

The beautiful, which is perhaps inseparable from art, is not after all tied to the subject, but to the pictorial representation. In this way and in no other does art overcome the ugly without avoiding it.

Formerly it frequently happened to me that when questioned regarding a picture I simply did not know what it represented. I had not seen the subject, so to say. Now I have also included the content so that I know most of the time what is represented. But this only supports my experience that what matters in the ultimate end is the abstract meaning of harmonization.

It is a great difficulty and great necessity to have to start with the smallest. I want to be as though new-born, knowing nothing, absolutely nothing, about Europe; ignoring poets and fashions, to be almost primitive. Then I want to do something very modest; to work out by myself a tiny, formal motive, one that my pencil; will be able to hold without any technique. One favorable moment is enough. The little thing is easily and concisely set down. It’s already done! It was a tiny but real affair, and someday, through the repetition of such small but original deeds, there will come one work upon which I can really build.

I have a feeling that sooner or later I shall arrive at something legitimate, only I must begin, not with hypotheses, but with specific instances, no matter how minute. If I then succeed in distinguishing a clear structure, I get more from it than from a lofty imaginary construction. And the typical will automatically follow from a series of examples.

But by way of consolation: it is valueless to paint premature things, what counts is to be a personality, or at least to become one. The domination of life is one of the basic conditions of productive expression. For me this is surely the case; when I am depressed I am unable even to think about it – and this holds true for painting, sculpture, tragedy, or music. But I believe that pictures alone will abundantly fill out this one life.

My hand is entirely the implement of a distant sphere. It is not my head that functions but something else, something higher, something somewhere remote. I must have great friends there, dark as well as bright... They are all very kind to me.

Spatial art does not begin with a poetic mood or idea, but with construction of one or more figures, with the harmonizing of several colors and tones, or with the devaluation of spatial relationships and so on.

Reduction! One wants to say more than nature and one makes the impossible mistake of wanting to say it with more means than she, instead of fewer.

By using patches of color and tone it is possible to capture every natural impression in the simplest way, freshly and immediately.

The beholder's eye, which moves like an animal grazing, follows paths prepared for it in the picture.

I want to be as though new-born, knowing nothing, absolutely nothing... Then I want to do something modest; to work out by myself a tiny, formal motive, one that my pencil will be able to hold without technique.

In earlier times artists liked to show what was actually visible... nowadays we are concerned with reality, rather than the merely visible.

It is precisely the way which is productive - this is the essential thing; becoming is more important than being.

I paint in order not to cry.

In earlier days, even as a child, the beauty of landscapes was quite clear to me. A background for the soul's moods. Now dangerous moments occur when Nature tries to devour me; at such times I am annihilated, but at peace. This would be fine for old people but I... I am my life's debtor, for I have given promises.

Everything vanishes round me and good works rise from me of their own accord.

Light and the rational forms are locked in combat; light sets them into motion, bends what is straight, makes parallels oval, inscribes circles in the intervals, makes the intervals active.

Like people, a picture has a skeleton, muscles and skin.

What my art probably lacks is a kind of passionate humanity... There is no sensuous relationship, not even the noblest, between myself and the many.

To achieve vital harmony in a picture it must be constructed out of parts in themselves incomplete, brought into harmony only at the last stroke.

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Swiss-German Painter of Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism