Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss-born painter and graphic artist whose personal, often gently humorous works are replete with allusions to dreams, music, and poetry. His art is difficult to classify. Art created by non-industrial cultures, surrealism, cubism, and children's art are all blended into Klee’s small-scale, delicate paintings, watercolors, and drawings—which number over 7000. Klee grew up in a musical family and was himself a violinist. After much hesitation, however, he chose to study art, and attended the Munich Academy in 1900. Klee later toured Italy (1901-02), responding enthusiastically to Early Christian and Byzantine art. A turning point in Klee's career came on a visit he made to Tunisia in 1914. He was so overwhelmed by the intense light there that he wrote, “Color has taken possession of me. No longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever. That is the significance of this blessed moment. Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) founded named the movement Neo-Plasticism. It’s a rigid form of Abstraction, whose rules allow only for a canvas to be sectioned into rectangles by horizontal and vertical lines, and colored using a very limited palette. He published a manifesto entitled Neo-Plasticism in 1920. Another member of the movement, painter Theo van Doesberg (Dutch, 1883-1931) started a journal named De Stijl in 1917, which continued publication until 1928, spreading the theories of the group. The labels “De Stijl” and “Neo-Plasticism" came to be synonymous.
Kasimir Malevich, (1878-1935) was a Ukranian painter and designer, and one of the most important pioneers of geometric abstract art.
Born near Kiev, Malevich trained at Kiev School of Art and Moscow Academy of Fine Arts. In 1913 he began creating abstract geometric patterns in a style he called Suprematism. He taught painting in Moscow and Leningrad from 1919-21, and published a book, The Nonobjective World, on his theory in 1926. Malevich was the first artist to exhibit abstract geometric paintings. He strove to produce pure, cerebral compositions, and his famous painting of 1918, White on White, carries suprematist theories to their absolute conclusion. Malevich described his aesthetic theory, known as Suprematism, as "the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts." Sadley, Soviet politics turned against modern art, and Malevich died in poverty and oblivion.
ITEM 495: Amedeo Modigliani
During the early 1900s in Paris, the Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) developed a truly unique style. Today, the sight of his graceful portraits and lush nudes evoke his name immediately. But during his brief career, very few people apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. Modigliani had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health, dying at the tender age of 35 of tuberculosis and excesses of drink and drugs. His interest in African masks and sculpture remains evident, especially in the treatment of the sitters' faces: flat and masklike, with almond eyes, twisted noses, and pursed mouths. Nevertheless, despite their extreme economy of composition and neutral backgrounds, Modigliani’s portraits convey a sharp sense of each sitter's personality. Modigliani’s work also embodies the entire Italian tradition, which can be seen in the elongated necks of his sitters. This is yet another characteristic that sets him apart from other of his contemporary Modernists.
As the center of artistic interest in the early Modern era, Paris attracted a number of foreign painters. Chaim Soutine (1894-1943) came to Paris in 1913. Soutine's style included applying thickly encrusted paint—and his work exudes a “wild, chaotic spirit, sorrowful and vehement.” Soutine was a natural, though singular, Expressionist.
His religion was the earth. He painted the sacredness of the country with a passion that sometimes makes his art difficult to read.