Measuring just 40 by 38 centimeters, it’s a relatively small example of Paul Klee oil paintings. Nonetheless, it’s a painting that creates an extreme emotional connection.
Otherwise referred to as Head of a Man Going Senile, the painting represents a round face split-up into squares of color. The eyes gaze inquiringly with one eyebrow raised, whilst the figure appears to slowly morph into (or appear from) the bright orange and yellow background
As the name suggests, the painting references themes of aging and senility. The flat geometric, brightly colored squares could reference a mask or the patches on a harlequin’s outfit.
Linking to the fears we all have about growing older, losing our mental capacities and vigor, it’s a fascinating portrait. Indeed, the connections with mask-wearing and aging are drawn-out by the painting’s title. Senecio means “Old Man” in Latin and was also a well-known performer.
The figure’s raised eyebrow suggests although the mask of senility is creeping in, the man’s intelligence and individuality still shines through.
Paul Klee never wrote specifically about his reasons for creating Senecio. Amongst paintings by Paul Klee however, it’s particularly notable for its cubist influence.
As a twentieth century avant-garde movement, Cubism focused on analyzing and breaking up objects (and people) into abstracted forms. Whilst Senecio still maintains a single viewpoint, Klee presents a number of divides and cross-sections within the painting.
These unusual dividing lines encourage viewers to assess the old man from numerous intellectual and visual perspectives. On the one hand, the portrait presents a humorous, wry figure full of inner life. From another perspective, the old man’s round face takes on an innocent, childlike form.
Paul Klee artwork (with Senecio no exception) also intensely investigates color theory. The use of color particularly fascinated the artist, and he wrote and lectured on the topic throughout his career
Similar orange and red tones are evident in another Paul Klee artwork, painted just six years after Senecio. Paul Klee Castle and Sun (1928) also utilizes simple triangles, squares and circles to depict an abstracted city scene.
The work’s joyfulness and brightness (in stark contrast to the darker fears of senility expressed in Senecio) make it one of the most reproduced Paul Klee paintings.
Senecio is an oil on canvas painting, mounted on a panel.
Amongst paintings of abstract faces, it’s particularly expressive. Indeed, Paul Klee’s expert use of line and ambiguous shapes demonstrate his skill in creating compositions from simple graphic elements. He once claimed these elements were simply “set in motion” by the artist’s mind.
Whilst the paint initially appears scraped onto the canvas in a haphazard manner, Klee carefully planned each and every detail of his color and lines. The geometric methods used in Senecio make it particularly well-respected amongst artists today.
The painting currently hangs in the Kunstmuseum. Based in Basel, Switzerland, this museum boasts the oldest public art collection in the entire world. It’s famed as the most important museum in Switzerland with heritage extending back to a Hans Holbein purchase in 1661
In addition to famous nineteenth century impressionist works, the museum’s twentieth century collection particularly focuses on the cubist movement. As well as a unique collection of paintings by Paul Klee, the museum holds work by Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris.
Oil painting reproductions of abstract paintings by Paul Klee are included in our large selection of 20th Century artwork.
Ever heard of Paul Klee associated with the Bauhaus Movement?
Paul Klee was a 20th century Swiss-German artist famous for his individual style which took elements from Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. He was an avid writer on color theory and also lectured extensively on this subject. Paul Klee taught at the Bauhaus School of Art with his friend the artist Wassily Kandinsky. Klee studied in Munich and upon graduation went on a tour of Rome, Florence and Naples. He joined Der Blaue Reiter group, founded by Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky. Whilst in London Klee met Pablo Picasso who he greatly admired. Paul Klee returned Switzerland after the First World War and stayed there until his death in 1940. Klee is known to have painted over 9000 paintings in his life, a huge volume of work.
Paul Klee's Twittering Machine and Senecio are two of his very famous paintings.
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