Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee (near Bern) of Switzerland into a musical family. In his early years, Paul wanted to be a musician, but decided on the visual arts in his teen years. He studied art in Munich with Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. After travelling to Italy and then back to Bern, he settled in Munich, where he met Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and other avant-garde artist of art, prints and posters, and became associated with the Blaue Reiter. Here he met Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf, whom he married; they had one son. In 1914, he visited Tunisia and was impressed by the quality of the light there, writing “Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
Klee worked with many different types of media, oil paint, watercolor, ink and more. He often combined them together in his art, prints and posters. He has been variously associated with expressionism, cubism and surrealism but his pictures are difficult to classify. They often have a fragile child-like quality to them, and are usually on a small scale. They frequently allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes include words or musical notation. The later works are distinguished by spidery hieroglyph-like symbols.
Following World War I, in which he fought as part of the imperial German army, Klee taught at the Bauhaus, and from 1931 at the Düsseldorf Academy, before being denounced by the Nazi Party for producing “degenerate art”. Composer Gunther Schuller also immortalized seven works of Klee’s in his Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee. In 1933, Paul Klee returned to Switzerland and in 1935 he was diagnosed with scleroderma. The progression of his disease can be followed through the art, prints and posters that he created in his last years. He died in Bern in 1940.