Movement: Nouveau Realisme
Yves Klein's Famous Artworks
“Eponge (SE180) (Sponge [SE 180]),” 1957
“IK B74,” 1958
“Sponge Relief,” 1959
“Blue Monochrome,” 1961
“IKB 191,” 1962
Yves Klein was among the pioneers of conceptual and performance art, and also one of the key influencers of the minimalist movement. The enigmatic French artist believed his art was a means to an end and not an end in itself. He favored the idea over the execution. Klein was prominently a member of the Nouveau Realisme movement founded in 1960. Artworks of Yves Klein have been exhibited in many galleries
Yves Klein's Family
Born in Nice in April of 1928, Yves Klein was the son of two amiable, affluent artists. His father, Fred Klein, focused on figures and landscapes in the Post-Impressionist idiom, his mother, Marie Raymond, was a core member of Art Informel, a Parisian abstract movement. The conflict between the figurative and abstract, thus, was introduced to his life early on. Klein received no formal training in art in his childhood, although his immediate family and their social circle were of a creative bent. The family was based in Paris through the 1930s.
The young Klein was often left in the care of his aunt in the summer while his parents visited artist friends in Cagnes-sur-Mer. Rose Raymond provided her nephew with structure and a practical worldview to counter the effects of his parents’ fluid lifestyle, and it was these varying perspectives that later influenced his rejection of lines and polychromatic composition.
Yves Klein's Recognition
From 1942 to 1946, Klein attended the Ecole Nationale de la Marine Marchand and the Ecole Nationale des Langues in Paris. He formed a close relationship with poet Claude Pascal and sculptor Arman Fernandez during this period, citing judo and jazz as common interests. The story goes that one day, the three of them lying on a beach, whimsically divided the universe amongst themselves: Arman claimed the earth, Pascal took language, and Klein appropriated ‘the void,’ a world without matter of any kind. He claimed later that he had etched his name upon the sky. Perhaps a symbolic act foretelling Klein’s artistic struggle to understand cosmic infinity.
Yves Klein's “Monotone-Silence Symphony"
His psychic possession of ‘the void’ led to a series of experiments with painting, music and performance. In 1949, he conceived of a piece consisting of 20 minutes of a single sustained chord followed by an equal amount of introspective silence. It was called the “Monotone-Silence Symphony,” symbolizing the pitch that resonates from a uniformly blue sky – a precedent to the works of both John Cage and La Monte Young.
He lived in London from 1948 to 1952, assisting his father’s friend Robert Savage in his frame shop. Here Klein learned the craft of gilding and how to use raw pigments. He traveled extensively during this period, visiting Italy, Spain and even Japan for an interval. His time spent in the Orient offered an opportunity to study the relatively new martial art of judo as well as exhibit his experimental art in Tokyo. “The Manifesto of the Monochrome” was a study of the emotional resonance and totality of color that exists without lines or abstracted symbols.
His first public work was the 1954 book titled “Yves: Peintures” that satirized the traditional artists’ catalog in design and featured on its pages powerful monochromes representing various cities he had lived in. It prepared audiences for the controversial “Yves: Propositions Monochromes” show of 1956. Mounted at the Gallery Colette Allendy, the exhibition consisted of twenty monochromatic displays in red, blue, orange, yellow and pink. The public misconceived the notion of the show, thinking it more a mosaic or interior abstraction than Klein’s ‘journey into the infinite’. The disappointment of being misunderstood compelled Klein to narrow his focus by working within a single color: blue.
His next exhibition was held at the Gallery Apollinaire in Milan in January 1957. Titled “Proposte Monochrome, Epoca Blu,” it featured 11 indistinguishable blue canvases using ultramarine pigment suspended in an artificial resin that helped retain the brilliance of the intended color. The show was a critical and financial success and toured Paris, Düsseldorf and London. The color was painted by Klein and is now known as International Klein Blue (IKB).
“The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void” debuted at the Iris Cler Gallery in 1958. Every surface in the gallery was painted white; blue curtains hung at the entrance next to blue cocktails and republican guards. The room was empty save a large cabinet. Three thousand people queued up to be let into an empty room.
Yves Klein's Experiments
The uniform color of Klein’s paintings
should not imply a limited technique. He was constantly searching for new methods of applying paint: various rollers, sponges, gas burners and later human bodies (anthropometry involved covering nude models in the paint and dragging them across a canvas to form an image). Stormy weather saw Klein driving around at a speed with a canvas tied to the roof of his car to record the pattern of rain. His famous photomontage “Leap into the Void” is an image of him falling off a building, arms outstretched, towards the pavement. Klein staged and captured this performance to denounce NASA’s lunar expeditions.
Yves Klein's Death
A 34-year-old Yves Klein died of a heart attack at the Cannes Film Festival while watching the film “Mondo Cane” in 1962. He was perhaps the most controversial and influential artist to emerge from 1950s France. He was survived by his wife and son. Art lovers can buy Yves Klein's artworks online
Yves Klein's Major Exhibitions
1955 - Club des Solitaires, Paris
1956 - Gallery Colette Allendy, Paris
1957 - Gallery Apollinaire, Milan
1958 - Iris Clert Gallery, Paris
1961 - Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
2010 - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
2014 - Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich
Yves Klein's Museums/Collections
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
Tate Gallery, London
Stadel Museum, Frankfurt
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art, New York
“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers” by Kerry Brougher and Phillippe Vergne
“Yves Klein: Works, Writings, Interviews” by Klaus Ottmann and Yves Klein
“Yves Klein: Incandescence” by Frederic Prot and Patti Smith
“Yves Klein: Expressing the Immaterial” by Denys Riout and Yves Klein
“Yves the Provocateur: Yves Klein and Twentieth-Century Art” by Thomas McEvilley