Paul Klee, Poet/Painter

Paul Klee, Poet/Painter

K. Porter Aichele


Camden House



First scholarly monograph devoted to Klee's poetry illuminates the reciprocity of poetry and painting in Klee's creative world and in early modernism.
It is no coincidence that most of the artists at the vanguard of early 20th-century modernist art were poets as well as painters. Paul Klee (1879-1940) was among them. Known today almost exclusively as a visual artist, he was also a poet who experimented across a range of poetic forms. In 1901, while still vacillating between a career as a painter and one as a poet, Klee predicted he would end up expressing himself through the word, "the highest form of art." This first scholarly monograph devoted to Klee's poetry proposes that he lived up to that prediction. It considers poems he identified as such and visual images that are poetic in their compositional techniques, metaphorical imagery, and linear structures. It provides selected examples of Klee's poetry along with English translations that capture the spirit and literal meaning of the German originals. It places the poems and related images within the spectrum of contemporary poetic practice, revealing that Klee matched wits with Christian Morgenstern, rose to the provocations of Kurt Schwitters, and gave new form to the Surrealists' "exquisite corpses." Paul Klee, Poet/Painter is a case study in the reciprocity of poetry and painting in early modernist practice. It introduces a little-known facet of Klee's creative activity and re-evaluates his contributions to a modernist aesthetic.

Kathryn Porter Aichele is Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


November 2006
47 black and white illustrations
236 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133434
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC BIO001000, BIO007000, LIT004170
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Artist (Poet/Painter)
"I Am a Poet, After All"
The Poetic and the Pictorial
A Poetic-Personal Idea of Landscape
Harmonizing Architectonic and Poetic Painting
Poems in Pictorial Script
Conclusion: Klee and Concrete Poetry
Appendix: What Counts as Poetry?
Works Cited


Winner of the Southeastern College Art Conference's 2010 Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research and Publication This book is welcome for its focus on the two main strands of Klee's career.... The five main chapters cover Klee's recognition of himself as poet; the poetic and the pictorial; the idea of landscape; harmonising architectonic and poetic painting; poems in pictorial script; and concluding thoughts on Klee's relationship with concrete poetry, and on what counts as poetry. FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

(O)bservant, nuanced, thought-provoking ways of seeing the pictures she treats...(I)t is clear that Aichele addresses a central aspect of Klee's oeuvre. Her book will be read with considerable interest by Klee specialists as well as by scholars interested in German modernist culture more generally. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

(Aichele) helps clarify the way many of (Klee's) visual works compare to language systems in which elements express meaning within the context of the whole. GERMAN QUARTERLY

What does it mean to adapt poetic language to the pictorial medium? Where does one find poetry in a painting? How does this interdisciplinary mystery unlock key issues of modernism.. Aichele addresses these fascinating questions by calling on the poetic/painterly/theoretical oeuvre of Swiss painter Paul Klee.. With this new volume, Aichele has made an invaluable contribution to Klee scholarship in semiotics, one that informs our ongoing dialogue with the questions of 20th Century modernism, writ large. GERMAN QUARTERLY

In looking at (Klee's) poems and the way poetry in general entered his painting, Paul Klee: Poet/Painter treats Klee as paradigmatic of modernism. Although Porter Aichele does not discuss Futurism, and largely works inwards towards Klee rather than outwards to modernity as a whole (except for a chapter on concrete poetry), her work deserves to be read by anyone interested in the making of modern art. TLS

Author Bio

Kathryn Porter Aichele is associate professor in the Art Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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