Yves Klein

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One of the most important artists to emerge in post-war Europe, Yves Klein was a man of many talents. Apart from being a painter and sculptor Klein also happened to be a performer – a fact owing to his handsome movie star looks. The French artist was monumental in laying down the foundation of color techniques in paintings, and with his work came along a fair share of controversies. He also one of those rare breed of artists who managed to make an impact at a very young age and left too soon – he passed away when he was just 34 years old.

Yves Klein was born on April 28, 1928 in Nice, France to parents who were both painters. Klein received no formal training in arts; he instead dabbled in learning judo, other languages and was more interested in acting. It wasn’t until Klein discovered the color blue that he found his flair for the arts was inherited. Initially Klein worked predominantly with red, yellow and oranges but later on he developed an affinity for the color blue. In fact Klein’s work then got defined by this very color, as most of works are submerged in various shades of blue. At times Klein’s flamboyant attitude caused much controversy, for instance the time when Klein held an exhibition which was basically nothing…amply titled The Void. Instead of having even a single painting or work displayed it contained nothing. Klein stated that it was what the word literally meant, void – devoid of everything. Obviously it didn’t go down well with fellow artists and art lovers who never missed an opportunity to criticize Klein. He also openly attacked the concept of abstract painting which heavily dominated the Parisian art scene after World War II. His attitude didn’t win him many fans but his art work was astounding.

Klein’s work is deeply rooted in romanticism and mysticism; he was also inspired by his training in judo which is displayed in some of his pieces. Klein held his first exhibition at the Galerie des Solitaires in Paris when he was just 19, such fame at such a young age did play havoc with Klein’s mind. Art critics believed he became a tad bit arrogant thinking he can get away with saying or doing anything. Klein was a firm believer in using one’s imagination for painting, that’s why some of his work took a while to get noticed and respected. For him imagination was a wild beast which an artist must learn to tame and then subsequently work with. Klein’s philosophy was that without imagination there could be no art. The most famous painting which brought Klein on the map was his Blue Monochrome, he famously stated he was inspired by gazing into the sky once as a teenager and discovering various shades of blue. He got the idea to painting Blue Monochrome from that memory. Today the painting rests in Museum of Modern Art in New York. On its face it’s a single canvas in a rich shade of blue, but it’s the work that went behind it which is fascinating. Klein used many chemicals to get the perfect monochrome blue he desired for his painting, there is no angle, or imagery apart from the simple blue color in this painting. Then there is the Untitled Anthropometry, where Klein utilized a darker shade of blue and drew human like figures with a heavy brush. Despite the controversies Yves Klein managed to raise there is no denying the man was an artistic genius.

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