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

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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Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2016.

via Mono­skop

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Home­made Hand Pup­pets of Bauhaus Artist Paul Klee

Watch Bauhaus World, a Free Doc­u­men­tary That Cel­e­brates the 100th Anniver­sary of Germany’s Leg­endary Art, Archi­tec­ture & Design School

The Women of the Bauhaus: See Hip, Avant-Garde Pho­tographs of Female Stu­dents & Instruc­tors at the Famous Art School

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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  • Edmond Hibbs says:

    It feels like I wait­ed two life­times for this what I con­sid­ered one of the most sig­nif­i­cant move­ments of it’s time. Long over dew. At that time in his­to­ry noth­ing comes close to the mag­i­cal Impres­sion that it left for all arti­sans. My praise to all those who were part of this move­ment. Thank you. Bring it back. 😎

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