3,900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks Are Now Online, Presenting His Bauhaus Teachings (1921–1931)

Klee Notebooks 1

Paul Klee led an artis­tic life that spanned the 19th and 20th cen­turies, but he kept his aes­thet­ic sen­si­bil­i­ty tuned to the future. Because of that, much of the Swiss-Ger­man Bauhaus-asso­ci­at­ed painter’s work, which at its most dis­tinc­tive defines its own cat­e­go­ry of abstrac­tion, still exudes a vital­i­ty today.

And he left behind not just those 9,000 pieces of art (not count­ing the hand pup­pets he made for his son), but plen­ty of writ­ings as well, the best known of which came out in Eng­lish as Paul Klee Note­books, two vol­umes (The Think­ing Eye and The Nature of Nature) col­lect­ing the artist’s essays on mod­ern art and the lec­tures he gave at the Bauhaus schools in the 1920s.

Klee Notebooks 2

“These works are con­sid­ered so impor­tant for under­stand­ing mod­ern art that they are com­pared to the impor­tance that Leonardo’s A Trea­tise on Paint­ing had for Renais­sance,” says Mono­skop. Their descrip­tion also quotes crit­ic Her­bert Read, who described the books as  “the most com­plete pre­sen­ta­tion of the prin­ci­ples of design ever made by a mod­ern artist – it con­sti­tutes the Prin­cip­ia Aes­thet­i­ca of a new era of art, in which Klee occu­pies a posi­tion com­pa­ra­ble to Newton’s in the realm of physics.”

Klee Notebooks 3

More recent­ly, the Zen­trum Paul Klee made avail­able online almost all 3,900 pages of Klee’s per­son­al note­books, which he used as the source for his Bauhaus teach­ing between 1921 and 1931. If you can’t read Ger­man, his exten­sive­ly detailed tex­tu­al the­o­riz­ing on the mechan­ics of art (espe­cial­ly the use of col­or, with which he strug­gled before return­ing from a 1914 trip to Tunisia declar­ing, “Col­or and I are one. I am a painter”) may not imme­di­ate­ly res­onate with you. But his copi­ous illus­tra­tions of all these obser­va­tions and prin­ci­ples, in their vivid­ness, clar­i­ty, and reflec­tion of a tru­ly active mind, can still cap­ti­vate any­body  — just as his paint­ings do.

Klee Notebooks 4

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via Mono­skop

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Home­made Hand Pup­pets of Bauhaus Artist Paul Klee

Down­load Orig­i­nal Bauhaus Books & Jour­nals for Free: Gropius, Klee, Kandin­sky, Moholy-Nagy & More

Kandin­sky, Klee & Oth­er Bauhaus Artists Designed Inge­nious Cos­tumes Like You’ve Nev­er Seen Before

815 Free Art Books from World Class Muse­ums: The Met, the Guggen­heim, the Get­ty & LACMA

The Nazi’s Philis­tine Grudge Against Abstract Art and The “Degen­er­ate Art Exhi­bi­tion” of 1937

Bauhaus, Mod­ernism & Oth­er Design Move­ments Explained by New Ani­mat­ed Video Series

Down­load All 36 of Jan Vermeer’s Beau­ti­ful­ly Rare Paint­ings (Most in Stun­ning High Res­o­lu­tion)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (24)
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  • ryan says:

    uh… its in black and white… ?

  • So hap­py about this.…many thanks

  • Brenda S Kerster Richardson says:

    Where are the col­or ver­sions?

  • Ken Konno says:

    Thank you so much!

  • Melanie See says:

    Amaz­ing. Thank you so much!

  • Paul Rand says:

    This was post­ed at Mono­skop in 2013, as the link giv­en at the post­ing itself obvi­ous­ly shows.

    What’s the point of call­ing this “now online”?

  • Sandy says:

    For myself and many of my artist friends we are hap­py this has been shown as we have nev­er seen it. Think before you crit­i­cize!

  • Paul Rand says:

    The point is you are sim­ply wrong in call­ing this “now online”.

    This a fact, facts must be accu­rate­ly described.

    If you show­case stuff that are online for months or years, give the cor­rect facts and every­thing is fine.

  • Tammy says:

    Geez light­en up! Every­thing is fine any­way!

  • Carlos Lima says:

    Grande Homem!!!

  • Claude Almansi says:

    About “If you can’t read Ger­man, his exten­sive­ly detailed tex­tu­al the­o­riz­ing on the mechan­ics of art (…) may not imme­di­ate­ly res­onate with you”: actu­al­ly, you can still get a Google or Bing trans­la­tion of the text part.

    True, the pages them­selves of these online Clas­sotes are made of a sin­gle image con­tain­ing both the fac­sim­i­le and its tran­script, so Google or Bing can­not trans­late the tran­script part.

    How­ev­er, the menu that opens from the print­er’s icon offers four options, of which two have “Tran­skrip­tion” in their names, and are PDFs where the tran­script is in real, trans­lat­able text.

    So you can copy the URL of one of these two PDFs and paste it in a either Bing or Google trans­late. The result­ing machine trans­la­tion is imper­fect, but good enough to decide if you can still make bet­ter sense your­self or ask some­one who knows Ger­man for fur­ther help.

  • Sejal Mody says:

    Excel­lent thanks

  • Lucía says:

    Thank you for such over­whelm­ing trea­sure box. I come here very often and want­ed to ask a favor: Could you make your links open in a new win­dow or pop-up? That way we can have many win­dows open with­out loos­ing the source. It would come very handy for nav­i­ga­tion with­in the site. Thank you again for your beau­ti­ful col­lec­tor’s eye.


  • Monique Martens says:

    Mer­ci pour ces ren­seigne­ments sur Paul Klee, je suis pas­sion­née par tout ce qu’il a créé, en dessins, pein­tures, écrits, mar­i­on­nettes. J’ai aus­si lu ceci :http://www.cspritsnomades.com/artplastique/Klee/klee.html,que
    j’au­rais voulu partager sur Face­book !
    Grâce à vous, cela est devenu pos­si­ble, grand mer­ci.
    Wter­loo Bel­gique le 06/06/2016 à 22:17

  • adam says:

    Yes, you can tell from all the col­or pic­tures.

  • Thanks for pre­sent­ing the info on Klee. it has to be as impor­tant for future artists aca­d­e­mics and offi­ciona­dos as the rev­e­la­tions found in the dead sea scrolls are to the­ol­o­gists and the forge of his­to­ry.

  • Jacquelyn Klee says:

    Delight­ed to find this arti­cle. Can’t wait to read it! Thank you

  • Aalihte says:

    I was able to trans­late the PDFs with google. click on “print” and they pop right up. (if i’m repeat­ing some­thing already post­ed, apolo­gies)

  • bluartao says:

    Gra­zie un prezioso rega­lo.
    qualche sug­ger­i­men­to per scari­care questi preziosi appun­ti?

  • Pacskó Irén says:

    Érdekel a mod­ern művészet. Örül­tem az infor­má­ciók­nak.

  • Michael James says:

    Great event, but it does­n’t seem to work on a Mac­in­tosh OS. Any­one have a workaround for this?

  • Diane Metzger says:

    Is there an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of Paul Klee’s Note­books?

    If not, this would be a superb project for a Ger­man trans­la­tor with a back­ground in art to under­take, and an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the knowl­edge and prac­tice of visu­al arts.

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