Art Moment: Paul Klee, “Fish Magic”

Fish Magic is one of a series of drawings and paintings by the Swiss abstract artist, Paul Klee (1879-1940). It depicts a world under water where fishes are cohabiting with humans and other aspects of nature such as the sun and moon, sunflowers and leaves.

Paul Klee, Fish Magic, oil on canvas, 77 x 99 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

An interesting feature of this painting is that it contains another painting in the form of a square where the sun and moon are depicted, as well as a clock face with the year 1925 (the year the picture was painted) in thin white lines. Thus, the work is partly a meditation on time, where the clock face represents human time, and the sun and moon represent the vastly greater celestial time. Like most of Klee’s other paintings, Fish Magic conjures fantastical worlds that defy everyday logic but charm the viewer into an amused acceptance of the unreal.

Fish Magic – details.

About Paul Klee

The Swiss city of Munich had in the late 19th century developed a reputation for art that was second only to Paris and Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) was in middle of this artistic flourish. Born to a music teacher father and a professional singer mother, and an outstanding violinist himself, the young Paul Klee seemed destined for a career in music. But as things turned out, Klee decided to study fine art, probably inspired by the creative impulse which was brimming over Munich at the end of the 19th century. Klee is known for his highly symbolic paintings of simple stick figures, suspended fish, moon faces, eyes, arrows, and quilts of color, which he orchestrated into fantastic and childlike yet deeply meditative works. Pablo Picasso, George Braque and Wassily Kandinsky were artists who had the greatest influence on his art.

Leave a Reply