Paul Klee was a Swiss and German artist known for developing a distinct, individual style, drawing inspiration from a range of artistic movements, including cubism, expressionism and surrealism.
He was also prolific, creating about 10,000 paintings, drawings and etchings during his lifetime.
To celebrate Klee’s 139th birthday Tuesday, Google is paying homage to the artist’s sometimes dry and sometimes child-like approach with a Doodle reminiscent of Klee’s Rote Brücke (Red Bridge) — a 1928 painting that uses a pattern of shapes and contrasting yet harmonious hues to represent the rooftops and arches of a European city.
The painting reflects Klee’s deep exploration of color theory — the mixing of colors and the visual effects of specific color combination.
Born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, on December 18, 1879, Klee was the son of a music teacher and Swiss singer. An accomplished violinist at a young age, Klee received an invitation to play with the Bern Music Association at age 11 before turning his attention to the visual arts as a teen.
In 1898, Klee began studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. By 1905, he had begun to develop experimental techniques, including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass.
A natural draftsman, Klee excelled at drawing but seemed to lack a natural feel for color, which for Klee represented optimism in art. During a trip to Paris in 1912, following his exposure to cubism and bold colors of other artists’ work, Klee began experimenting with watercolors and landscapes, lamenting that that “a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of color.”
His artistic breakthrough came two years later, when during a visit to Tunisia, Klee was inspired by the light in Tunis and began to delve into the “cool romanticism of abstraction.” He wrote in his diary: “Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever… Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
When he returned to Munich, Klee painted In the style of Kairouan, considered his first abstract, composed of colored rectangles and circles. In 1916, he joined the German army, painting camouflage on airplanes and working as a clerk, but his work continued to evolve during World War I.
Klee taught art in Germany from 1921 until 1933, when the Nazis declared his work indecent and fired him. Later that year, Klee fled with his family to Switzerland, where he died in 1940 after suffering for years from a wasting disease.
Klee was considered to be at his peak during this tumultuous time, continuing his torrid pace of output. In 1939, he produced more than 1,200 works, a career high for a single year.