Klee, Paul


On a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, this painting arrested me more than any other. It presents the appearance of extreme simplicity, a mere line drawing, but this appearance is deceptive. Klee neatly divides up the labor in the painting: the black lines do the main representational work, while the color provides the mood and representational accents (e.g. the red that gives the mouth body). I am struck by the placement of the hands. More than anything else in the painting, this placement conveys its eerie, unsettling emotion. And then I notice that in fact the head is connected to the body only by the hands. It took me a while to catch this, the drawing of the figure seems so natural. I am struck as well by the horizontal lines, which divide up the space on the painting. The way that the spaces they create break up or merge together as one travels horizontally along the painting gives it vibrancy, a sense of motion. And it is the fleeing figure that marks the breakpoints, integrating foreground and background together.

I am a novice to painting, so my opinion is not worth much, but this painting speaks to me in a way no other painting ever has. Thank you, Mr. Klee.