|Paul Klee, 'Maibild', 1925|
Sometimes we are as influenced and informed by the things we dislike as much as the things we like. I realized that all of my Artist of the Months have been regarding artists that have positively influenced my career and work, but have never mentioned the other side of the coin, the painters I dislike, and when it comes to painters I dislike, the first that springs to mind is Paul Klee (1879-1940). Now don't get ahead of me, there's a story.
In 1987 I was a 16 year old high school student studying art at a private academy. Our instructor was a brilliant man who had studied art in the 1940’s, gone off to fight in WWII, then came home and became the creative director for an advertising firm on Madison Avenue all through the 1950’s and 60’s, and I’m convinced was the inspiration for Don Draper on Mad Men. He was also a sculptor, in the vein of Henry Moore and David Smith. Mid century modern was his style, Even his 19th century mansion was painted stark white with white shag carpet, modern furniture and abstract sculptures everywhere. By the mid ‘70’s he sold his share in the firm, settled down to an early retirement with his wife and opened an art school.
|Twittering Machine, 1922|
|Around the Fish, 1926|
|1987 Catalog for Paul Klee Retrospective at MOMA|
|Head of Man, 1922|
Its now almost thirty years later, and I routinely run into Paul Klee works in magazines and museums and constantly see his childlike stick renderings show up influencing children’s book illustrators. I have to admit, that I dislike his work just as much today as I did in 1987. No other artist has the same visceral dislike in me as Klee does. I understand his work, I appreciate his work, studied it in school and his influence on other artists, but I still can’t stand it.
Whatever the reason, this is a case of a negative reaction having a formative creative influence on my life. As I recoiled from Klee and his abstract surrealism, I moved toward realism, expressionism and the new post modernism. It was the first in a long series of similar encounters. Throughout college ALL of my teachers were modernists, having gone to school in the mid to late 20th century and I had to fight with each of them on why figurative art was not Evil. So I have Paul Klee to thank for beginning my push away from modernism and toward my 21st century career. My personal reaction does not make Klee’s work bad or inconsequential, and in no way diminishes his position in the canon of art history, but sometimes knowing what you dislike, and why, is as important as what you like.
Enjoy, go forth and learn!
|Cat and Bird, 1928|