Nizza 1928 | Parigi 1962
My life should be like my symphony of 1949, a continuous note, released from the beginning to the end, bound and eternal at the same time as there is no beginning and no end to it… (Y. Klein).
Yves Klein was born on April 28, 1928 in Nice, where he attended the Ecole Nationale de la Marine Marchande and the Ecole Nationale des Langues Orientales. In 1947, during a class of Judo, he became friends with Arman Fernandez and Claude Pascal. He studied Rosicrucian cosmogony, and later became a member of the esoteric Society. In 1949, after the experience with Claude Luther’s jazz orchestra in Paris, he composed the first Symphonie monoton: a single repeated note. He travelled to Italy, United Kingdom, Spain and Japan (1948-52) and in 1955 he settled in Paris, where he exhibited his Monochrome paintings. Initially, he used different shades of colours, in line with Max Heindel’s cosmological theosophy, then since 1956 he started using a single colour, that he patented as International Klein Blue (IKN). He defined it as the colour of infinite space, inaugurating in 1957 at the Galleria Apollinaire of Milan, the “Blue Epoch” which was also exhibited in Paris, Düsseldorf, and London. That same year he presented at the Galerie Allendy of Paris the first peinture-feu: Feux de Bengale, consisting in sixteen Bengal lights fixed on a blue monochrome, which were burnt during the inauguration. Influenced by the Zen notion of “void” as nirvana, he exhibited in 1958 at the Galerie Iris Clert Le Vide, ou la sensibilité picturale à l’état de matière première: an empty gallery, walls painted white and only animated by the presence of the artist. In 1959, impressed by the property of natural sponges to absorb any liquids, he executed the first Reliefs-éponges, while with Rotraut Uecker he completed the decoration of the New Opera of Gelsenkirchen designed by architect Walter Ruhnau. The Anthropométrie is connected with the practice of Judo: human imprints on canvas or paper, executed using naked models as “living paintbrush”, that Klein exhibited in 1960. He further developed his research on the invisible using other languages: the Architecture de l’air (1958) project and the performance in which the artist sells empty spaces (or “zones of immaterial pictorial sensibility”) in exchange for pure gold which he then throws into the Seine; the photograph Saut dans le vide [Leap into the Void, 1960], depicting the artist jumping off a wall and making a “lunar flight” alternative to that of the NASA mission. In 1960 he executed the first Monogold (monochrome gold) and the cycle of Cosmogonies obtained through the action of atmospheric manifestations on the canvas. That same year he signed the constitutive declaration of the Nouveau Réalisme, participating in 1961 to the exhibitions A 40° au dessus de Dada and Le Nouveau Réalisme à Paris et à New York, which were respectively held at the Galerie J and the Galerie Rive Droite. That year he also executed the large Peintures de feu which he exhibited at the Gas de France centre, and held a solo show organized by Leo Castelli in New York and at the Dwan Gallery of Los Angeles. He died of heart failure in Paris on June 6th 1962, at the young age of 34.
Blue pigment on canvas