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Yves Klein

    KLINE  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Yves Klein

Yves Klein was born in Nice, France on April 28, 1928.  He was self-taught in art. He served in the French army while stationed in Germany.  In 1962 he married Rotraut Uecker and they had a son, Yves, who was raised by his mother after his father's untimely death in 1962.  Klein had traveled widely, living in Japan in 1952 and 1953, earning a black belt in judo.   

Throughout the centuries artists have used models in assorted ways, but no one has ever used them in quite the manner of Parisian painter Yves Klein.  He had his nude models smear themselves with paint, then let them hurl themselves at a blank canvas while he shouted direction from a stepladder. He found that working with brushes was too finicky; he hit upon the idea of smeared models, whom he called "living brushes." With this technique, Klein did not have to touch the painting at all.   

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Time Magazine, January 27, 1961.   
Contemporary Artists, 2nd Edition

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Yves Klein's highly theoretical approach to art included innovative experiments in painting, sculpture, performance art, and music composition. Born in Nice to artist parents Fred Klein and Marie Raymond, his first deep interest was in judo. As a compliment to his judo practice, he studied East Asian religions and traveled to Japan, among other destinations, in 1952-53.

Klein settled permanently in Paris in 1955. By then, he had learned painting and the application of gold leaf while working in the London frame shop of Robert Savage. He had exhibitions of monochromatic paintings in London and Tokyo in 1950 and 1953, and from that point he developed and refined his painting theories. The use of a single color, Klein posited, freed one from materiality and temporality. To Klein, representational imagery--even lines--were a distraction from the goal of acheiving a pure experience of cosmic energy. As critic Peter Schjedahl observed, "Spirituality was Klein's long suit." (1) To this end, Klein developed a pigment that he patented as "International Klein Blue" (I.K.B.), a cobalt mixed with a binder to retain its powdery texture; he found in the color blue symbolic references to sky, water, and Catholic iconography. Klein used I.K.B. for allover canvases as well as sculptures based on sponges and his "Anthropométries," paintings created by pressing the bodies of nude female models covered with paint onto large sheets of paper.

In addition to his monochromes, Klein developed numerous other projects that have been understood as precursors to conceptual art. Ritual was a key element of many of these pieces. As one artwork, for instance, he sold receipts for "Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility," certificates exchanged for a weight of gold leaf. The gold was then thrown into water, often the Seine, and the receipt burned, creating a wholly ephemeral artwork. Other projects included releasing blue balloons, setting paintings on fire, and deliberately exposing artworks to the elements to decay them. Klein also composed music and developed (unrealized) architectural plans.

During his brief lifetime, he showed regularly in Paris at venues including the Galerie Colette Allendy, Galerie Iris Clert, and Galerie Internationale d'Art Contemporain. Klein died in Paris in 1962, at age thirty-four. His work is held and exhibited in public collections internationally, including a 2010 retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

(1) Peter Schjedahl, "True Blue," "The New Yorker," 28 June 2010, 72.

© Copyright 2010 Hollis Taggart Galleries

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About  Yves Klein

Born:  1928 - Nice, France
Died:   1962
Known for:  mod painting, nudes