Paul Klee’s late style
DOI link for Paul Klee’s late style
Paul Klee’s late style book
In 1903 Paul Klee, aged 23, created a small (5 × 9.6 inches) etching entitled Two Men Meet, Each Presuming the Other to be of Higher Rank. Like much of his early work, it combines satire with an uncommon sense of the grotesque and displays the artist’s superior analytical skills. Anecdotally, the work is rich: With two caricature-like human forms, one bowing deeply before the other, it makes a humorous statement about the hypocrisy of the human species. Fine lines playfully delineate the contours of the elongated bodies and their surroundings in nature while bristly hair and similarly depicted bristly grass, each interspersed with patches of smoothness, unify the composition. Fast-forwarding some three and a half decades, we come to a 1939 drawing in colored crayon entitled A Super Sycophant. Remarkably unlike the etching (which preceded by three years the ﬁrst exhibit of some of Klee’s earliest work), this late tableau nonetheless confers a distinct symmetry on the artist’s career: The positioning of the single human form on the paper reﬂects that of the two bodies seen in the etching. The horizontal ﬂow of energy is comparable in that the lone body, which appears to be walking, is bent forward from the waist at an angle of 90 degrees to resemble the bowed torsos of the early work. And there is the notably primitive quality in the drawing that one associates not only with the etching, but with much of Klee’s work of the intervening years. It is the diﬀerences, however, that are most interesting and they are obvious: The somewhat larger 1939 drawing contains none of the detail of the 1903 etching. In fact, it is exceedingly simple both in conception and execution. A few geometric shapes make up the entire picture rendering it one of the artist’s most minimalist drawings. Broad strokes replace the early ﬁne lines, the use of a single color (orange) projects a now exaggerated uniformity, and the composition assumes a new and powerful force, a surety of expression characteristic of the art made by Klee near the end of his life.