Paul Klee and Gustav Klimt – Art History

One of my favourite things to do in my art classes is to take inspiration from the works of some of the most famous and important artists from the past, and see how we can use it to inspire our own creations! This is great fun, because not only does it help our own process, but it also gives us a glimpse into art history.

Recently I’ve done classes that drew from the work of Paul Klee and Gustav Klimt — and in that spirit, here’s a little more about the work of both of these 19th and 20th century art giants.

Paul Klee was one of the most enigmatic and talented artists of the 20th century. He was a major influence on some of the most important artists and movements that came after him: everyone from Salvador Dali to Mark Rothko.

Klee’s work is difficult to categorise, working primarily in surrealist and abstract modes. But, he still managed to develop a distinctive style of his own, with common motifs including amorphous forms, glyphs, and surreal creatures and compositions.

These motifs represent one of the first and most groundbreaking forays into working the spiritual, transcendent, and subconscious into art, something that was at the time, a revelatory break from the realist conventions that had formed the backbone of western art for centuries.

This is why Klee’s work is so important — not just in terms of its resonance and individual impact, but in paving the way for the shape of modern art, and springboarding much of what we recognise as avant-garde and abstract art to this day.

Gustav Klimt’s most successful period is what has come to be known as his

“Golden Phase” during which he composed many of his most famous works, including ‘The Kiss’, which is his most well-known and enduring piece.

His art during this period was defined by his use of gold leaf, something that can be traced back to his earlier works.

These elegant decorative touches are a key recurring motif in his works, often used to conceal or abstract some of his more provocative themes and subjects. Klimt’s work is also categorised by an eclectic range of influences including Byzantine, Ancient Greek, and late medieval paintings.

Whilst figure drawings compose the bulk of his art, and are ultimately what he’s best known for, Klimt also created a series of landscape drawings over the years, very much built on the same principles of space and patterning that defined his figural work.

One of Klimt’s lasting contributions to the world of modern art was his founding role in the Vienna Secession movement. This was a group of painters, sculptors, and architects who denounced the conservative modes of the period and established their own forward-thinking ideals and styles, ultimately helping to popularise more experimental and avant-garde traditions.

Hopefully this has been an educational post, but it’s important to remember that all this context is just there to help us find our own style as artists! All of my classes are about creativity and individual expressions, and if you want to find out more, just click here.

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