Paul Klee and visual semiotic

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Paul Klee’s painting was never based on immediately observed nature, but his abstract paintings have pulsating energy and evolved through a natural process of dynamic growth and transformation (Arnason & Mansfield, p.282).

I choose the two paintings by Paul Klee that will be seen in next week’s field trip. One is Young Moe (1938), and the other one is Kettledrummer (1940). Both of them reflect the representative features of Klee’s painting, his work not simply emphasis on the geometric elements such as the point, the line, but he created energy and vivid emotions to the color, to the line.

To understand the meaning of Klee’s works, the concept of visual semiotic is about the inquiry into sign and symbol systems. “Meanings, and all kinds of responses to signs and symbols, are socially communicable events, not fixed things.” So by looking at this two paintings, i have come up with following questions.


According to the reading, Klee discovered his iconography of painting through teaching, where the arrows are the indications of lines of force for his students, the elements that show emotions and feelings. As visual semiotic suggests that when we look at a painting, it is necessary to take consideration the big environment as situated, not the painting itself. While Leonardo Da  Vinci and Monet or Andy Warhol are known for their symbolic artist’s style that got recognition and uniqueness, I do think that Klee has his own individual prototype. His use of contrasting and bright colors, the arrows, the lines, and his sometimes childlike perspective and his personal moods and expressions are vividly reflected through his works of art.

  1. The exhibition of Paul Klee and Ten Americans expected to contain Klee’s works and the other Americans artists’ paintings that are influenced by Klee’s style. I personally feels that they tend to learn the sprit of Klee’s painting as it contains powerful and unique symbolic language of expressions. They do share something in common, as i see the arrows, the lines. I am still intersted to see closely and maybe compare and constrast how does the symbolic of Klee’s painting is similar or different from the other American artists, in the way that are influenced by the context and semiotic meaning behind it.
  2. For Klee’s own works of Kettledrummer and Young Moe, i see the common symbolic of his use of simple lines drawing to represent people, while they are also diverse. They both told some stories about the figure in the paintings, while kettledrummer is more expressive and contrast in colors, and Young Moe is with more peaceful and pleasant story. I would like to ask how Klee’s personal background of teaching and the big enviornment of Bauhaus movement impact his painting of this two?

H. H. Arnason and Elizabeth C. Mansfield. History of Modern Art. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012.

Martin Irvine, Introduction to Visual Semiotics (revised)