Paul Klee was born on 28 December 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, a suburb of Bern, Switzerland. Klee took music lessons from a young age and proved to be a talented violinist, earning him a place in the orchestra of the Bernese Music Society. However he chose to pursue art, moving to Munich in 1898 and entering the drawing school of Heinrich Knirr before studying under Franz von Stuck at the Kunstakademie. Klee returned to Bern in 1902, having spent the previous six months travelling around Italy. He would return to Munich in 1906, where ten etchings from his Inventions series were shown in the Munich Secession. The same year, Klee would marry Lily Stumpf, a pianist.
Whilst in Munich, Klee would become familiar with post-Impressionist and Modern art. In 1910, he has his first solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern, which travelled to the Kunsthalle Basel. The following year, Klee met Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky and Franz Marc. He would exhibit alongside them in the second exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter at the Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, in 1912. Klee would also travel to Paris for the second time, where he visited Robert Delaunay and encountered the work of Picasso, Braque, Derain, Vlaminck and Matisse. In 1914, Klee had a revelation following a trip to Tunisia, declaring, “Colour and I are one. I am a painter.” Eight of his Tunisian watercolours were shown at the inaugural exhibition of the Neue Münchner Secession.
In 1920, a major Klee retrospective was held at the Galerie Hans Goltz; his essay in the anthology of artists’ writings, Schöpferische Konfession, was published; he was also appointed to the faculty of the Bauhaus in Weimar following an invitation from Walter Gropius. Klee taught at the Bauhaus from 1921 until 1931, following the school from Weimar to Dessau in 1926. He was particularly close with Wassily Kandinsky and Lyonel Feininger whilst there. Klee had his first solo exhibition in the United States at the Société Anonyme, New York, in 1924, the same year he founded Der Blaue Vier ('the Blue Four') with Feininger, Jawlensky and Kandinsky. In 1930, Alfred Flechtheim – Klee’s primary dealer since 1928 – organised a large exhibition of Klee’s work in his Berlin gallery, which subsequently travelled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Klee went to Düsseldorf to teach at the Akademie in 1931, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus. Klee returned to Bern in 1934, forced by the Nazis to leave his position in Düsseldorf in 1933. Seventeen of his works were included in the Nazi exhibition of 'degenerate art', Entartete Kunst, in 1937. Major Klee exhibitions took place in Bern and Basel (1935) and in Zurich (1940). Klee died on 29 June 1940, in Muralto-Locarno, Switzerland.
Klee’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; the Menil Collection, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Berggruen Museum, Berlin; Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK), Vienna; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), Turin; Kunstmuseum Basel; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; the Tate Collection, London.
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