Paul Klee

A line is a dot that went for a walk.

This art-related series was created to enlighten, and enable parents of elementary age children to build the foundation of art literacy needed for success once their students enter a middle school art program.  First, we presented the seven elements of art. In this series, we study a variety of artists and their significant contributions to the art world!

This artist of this months focus is Paul Klee (Pronounced “Clay”). The youngest of two children, Paul was born in 1879 in Munchenbuchsee, Switzerland. His parents were both creatives; his father, a music teacher, his mother, a singer and prolific sketch artist.

Klee’s was very talented as a realistic drawer and painter, but his true passion was what some consider to be “childlike” art.  His preferred styles of painting included Surrealism (a 20th-century avant-garde movement in which art and literature sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, such as images from dreams), Pointillism (a technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors, which become blended in the viewer's eye) and Expressionism (a style of art, music, or drama in which the artist or writer seeks to express emotional experience rather than impressions of the external world).  It is well known that Paul disliked realistic artwork and felt that if a person desired realism, they could take a photograph. 

Klee was a talented violinist. He began playing at the age of 7, and although his grandmother was the first to encourage his artistic skill by gifting him a set of artist chalk for his eighth birthday, it would take him until his teens to determine that art was to be his focus in life.

After receiving his degree in Fine Arts, Klee traveled to Italy in 1901 to study the master painters of past centuries. Although he excelled in painting techniques, Paul recognized that he was in store for a long struggle in understanding the use of color.

He began developing experimental art techniques such as oil paint, watercolor, ink, pastel, etching and others. He often combined them into one work. He used canvas, burlap, muslin, linen, gauze, cardboard, metal foils, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint.  He began to have some success; his work was exhibited at local art shows. In addition to his art interests, Paul also wrote concert and theater reviews for income.

Paul met and married his wife, Lily Stumpf in 1906. Their one son, Felix Paul was born shortly after that.  As is with most artists, Paul had virtually no income from his artwork while he was alive, so his wife gave piano lessons to support the family while Paul explored his artistic interests and developed his artistic skills.

Klee met Wasilly Kandinski and Franz Marc, in 1911. Together they formed the group, “The Blue Rider” that was fundamental to the Expressionist art Movement. 


Klee was drafted to serve in the Army during World War I. While most men would put personal interests on hold when called to serve in the Army, Paul managed to keep up his art interests by converting a closet into a small painting area just outside his barracks. 

He continued to struggle with the use of color. It was this struggle that caused him to delve deeply into the subject of color theory that eventually won him a coveted position as a teacher at the German Art Bauhaus from 1921 to 1931. Klee seemed to hit his creative stride in 1933 when he created over 500 pieces in one year. Many pieces are highly detailed, and each possessed masterful use of color. Klee said during this time, “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.” It was also during this time that Paul began exhibiting symptoms of Scleroderma; an autoimmune condition which causes hardening of the skin and spontaneous scarring. Although in constant pain, Paul continued to produce works of art until his death in 1940 at the young age of 60.

Klee left us with almost 10,000 pieces of artwork from his lifelong exploration of line and color. Today, his color and line techniques are taught by art teachers everywhere. Paul Klee’s best-known quote is, “A line is a dot that went for a walk.”



*Learn more about Paul Klee’s interest in Surrealism and dreams with Mati and Dada on YouTube with this video about Paul’s life:

*Learn to draw like Paul Klee at where your student will learn how to “take a dot for a walk”.

*Although he has long past, you can still be a student of Paul Klee just as if you were attending the Bauhaus in Germany! Read Paul’s notes and study what he learned about Color Theory. You can then say, “My art teacher was Paul Klee”, the famous painter, teacher, and color theorist.”


*Patty Palmer at “Deep Space Sparkle” has a fantastic FREE lesson plan on how to create one of Paul Klee’s famous “cat” paintings for young students. Visit the link below for a free printable PDF for this lesson.