Feet of Klee

November 17th, 2007

I’ve tried, but I don’t like Paul Klee. (Okay, sorry about the headline.)

His pictures, especially the ones featuring thin, angular lines, always look to me like they were painted by a coat hanger. And I’m certain that his colors were the inspiration for most of the shades that Formica came in, back in the fifties. They’re flat and without dimension or transparency, and the only light seems to be whatever is falling on the canvas. (Compare them the the internal glow of Rothko’s colors.) Klee himself, early in his career, despised color because it distracted from the purity of form (or something) so I don’t feel so guilty about despising some of his colors myself.

This little rant arises from a scene I wrote today. A character in what may (or may not) be a new series has to steal a valuable painting that is so uninteresting that he doesn’t look at it as he takes it down. As a result, he sees something on the wall behind the picture that changes his life in ways he will regret intensely in, oh, say, 35 pages. So I needed a painter at whose work I would not look even if it were as close to my eyes as my glasses. Klee immediately came to mind.

Klee apparently painted camouflage on airplanes (German airplanes, by the way) in World War I. While it’s always a good thing when a war ends, I think it’s kind of a shame they stopped giving him planes to paint. Those canvases he ruined could have gone to Vuillard or Klimt or even Kandinsky, although some of Kandinsky’s paintings look like they might have been done by a coat-hanger, too. For example:


That one has the romantic title, “Linear Algebra.”

But my least favorite painting title comes from the cheerful brush of Paul Klee. This picture is called “Head of Man, Going Senile.”


No, thanks.

One Response to “Feet of Klee”

  1. Ron Cantrell Says:

    Hi, I think that’s Kandinsky above and it is called VIII

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