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A Study on Paul Klee's Angel Paintings

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2001, (11), pp.43-69
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : May 31, 2001
  • Accepted : April 30, 2001
  • Published : May 31, 2001

Yang Hyesook 1

1숙명여자대학교

ABSTRACT

Paul Klee painted angels constantly throughout his life. His angel pamt:1ngs, however, counted only about 70 pieces though he created a large number of pieces, no less than 9,000 works. Most of his angel paintings were brought into being during 1939-1940, when Klee almost faced an end of his life. These paintings carry me core of his life-time art spirit eventhough they were created for mat short period. They take a critical position as a representation of Klee's unique artistic soul rather than as image conveying western protopyal christian message. Klee's angels portray symbolic beings accepting but trying to overcome human tragedy. His artistic theme is the very process of realizing and conquering human limitation, and he carries out the theme through angels beyond this world. Angels do not show in Klee's early art works, instead some oilier images were used: airplanes, birds, and arrows. He, with these images, intended to express human’s tragic irony mat human-beings dream to have flying-like freedom but can not help falling off in reality. As he served in the Air Force during war, his plane crash motif was employed to picture the irony. Birds, in his paintings of those days, fly toward me sun but fall to me ground shot by arrows or with their wings burned. After me war, in me Bauhaus period, arrows were often used to express me human tragedy. These images underwent an artistic morphosis into angels. Klee's early angel paintings created during 1913-1938 do not bear consistency in terms of pictorial theme and treatment, and me paintings differentiated from his late angel paintings done since 1939. But they also carry transitional character in that they suggest the style in his late angel paintings: guardian angels and wish­ bearing angels in his early angel works went through gradual metamorphose. Full scale angel paintings created for 1939-1940 are symbolic representation of tl1e times as well as self-portraits of Klee himself. The angels are symbolized as the only hope and deliverers for European artists in those days, who suffered the Nazis regime’s artistic persecution and fled from their own countries. Klee identifies me last day with deathly dark air clouded under me Nazis regime all over me Europe. Klee's angels alarm earthly status, flight against the evil in this world, make judgement, and enjoy the happy mood of Resurrection like apocalyptic angels; Apocalyptic angels shown in the last judgement warn the last day blowing trumpets and wake up the dead. Considering his personal background which he would face death of disease on 1935, angels are employed as the main theme and his own self image to decorate his last life. In this sense, Klee's angels are never a lofty being from christian view but rather a humanistic being who has fault and weakness, from which it transforms into a flawless angel through gradual spiritual purification. Therefore, Klee's angels can be viewed as various images of Klee himself in his subconsciousness. Klee's angels can be thought in the aspect of dualism which he had pursued persistently throughout his life. His life-long task is to express something seen as not seen, reality vs ideal, good vs evil, and God vs mankind. His fervent desire to merge such extremes is realized in his angel paintings.

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