Quite often people find art just a viewing interesting, which is where I think the feeling that a lot of people don’t understand it, because they look it at, try and understand what the artist was trying to say, rather than what the piece means to them as a viewer and then it is quickly dismissed. The truth is only the artist will ever truly understand what they wanted to portray in the pieces that they create, and it is up to them if they divulge their intent or not. Maybe this is because, as an artist they want you to find your own meaning in their work.
Yves Klein was born in 1928, and is considered as an important post war European artist.
Klein was born in Nice, France. His parents, Fred Klein and Marie Raymond, were both painters. His father painted in a loose post-impressionist style, while his mother was a leading figure in Art informel, and held regular soirées with other leading practitioners of this Parisian abstract movement.
From 1942 to 1946, Klein studied at the École Nationale de la Marine Marchande and the École Nationale des Langues Orientales. At this time, he became friends with Arman (Armand Fernandez) and Claude Pascal and started to paint. At the age of nineteen, Klein and his friends lay on a beach in the south of France, and divided the world between themselves; Arman chose the earth, Pascal, words, while Klein chose the ethereal space surrounding the planet, which he then proceeded to sign:
“With this famous symbolic gesture of signing the sky, Klein had foreseen, as in a reverie, the thrust of his art from that time onwards—a quest to reach the far side of the infinite.”
Between 1947 and 1948, Klein conceived his Monotone Symphony (1949, formally Monotone Silence Symphony) that consisted of a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence a precedent to both La Monte Young’s drone music and John Cage’s 4′33″.
In early 1948, Klein was exposed to Max Heindel’s 1909 text The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception and pursued a membership with an American society dedicated to Rosicrucianism.
Klein went through a number of transitions starting with suspending pigment in resin, retaining the vibrant colours of the pigment, specifically ultramarine as he had found that suspending it in linseed oil made the pigment dull and he developed the technique with the help of Edouard Adam (an art dealer). The theory behind this technique was to maintain the authenticity of a pure idea. 11 of these paintings were displayed on poles in 1957 in the Gallery Apollonaire, Milan and the colour blue would become known as IKB (international Klein blue). The show was a successes and travelled around London, Paris and Dusseldorf.
IKB 191 – Yves Klein 1962
The Parisian exhibition, at the Iris Clert Gallery in May 1957, became a seminal happening. To mark the opening, 1001 blue balloons were released and blue postcards were sent out using IKB stamps that Klein had bribed the postal service to accept as legitimate. Concurrently, an exhibition of tubs of blue pigment and fire paintings was held at Galerie Collette Allendy.
Klein went through a number of phases prior to creating his “Anthropométries”, but I really like these, particularly as I was lucky enough to see this one in the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. There is something so striking about the piece as you see it. The blue is definitely alluring, and while it was completely obvious to me that this was the prints of two bodies, others around me seemed to be perplexed as to what the picture was.
Klein saw the body as a living paintbrush, and many of these paintings were created, something with the audience in attendance, dressed in formal attire while models imprinted themselves on canvases as a small orchestra played Klein’s “Monotone Symphony”.
This piece is actually an imprint of Klein and his wife. Using this technique the role of the artists model is no longer passive, but an active being, in control of what of their body goes on the canvas; and while not a completely new concept, using the whole naked body in this way was a leap forward for art post the world wars.
What I really like about this, is that it is not immediately identifiable that it is a man and a woman, ok so on closer inspection it is, at a glance, it is just human torso and leg forms, almost removing the sexuality from the body and making it more about the shape and colour formation.
It is very simplistic in reality, but that is what makes it so striking. This piece was created in 1960, 2 years before Klein’s death, and really sealed his place as one of the leaders in new realism.
Klein died of a heart attack in 1962, he had suffered 2 previous heart attacks, which were thought to be brought on by amphetamines that he had taken during his time in Japan. While Klein’s life was short, he packed a whole lot into it, as he was a Judo Master, he travelled extensively, he created his own colour blue based from his love of the sky, he displayed numerous art works all by the age of 34.
Many of his pieces were only truly understood by him, yet so many people could understand the simplicity of realism in his work.
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