Paul Klee Notebooks

Paul Klee Notebooks is a two-volume work by the Swiss-born artist Paul Klee that collects his lectures at the Bauhaus schools in 1920s Germany and his other main essays on modern art. These works are considered so important for understanding modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo's A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance.[1][2][3] Herbert Read called the collection "the most complete presentation of the principles of design ever made by a modern artist – it constitutes the Principia Aesthetica of a new era of art, in which Klee occupies a position comparable to Newton's in the realm of physics."[4][5]

Writings on form and design theory (Paul Klee Notebooks)
handwritten notebook with colourful diagrams
Pages from Klee's notebooks discussing colour
AuthorPaul Klee
Original titleSchriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre
SubjectKlee's Bauhaus school lectures
GenreModern art
Published1956 & 1964
PublisherBenno Schwab
WebsiteZentrum Paul Klee online edition

The final work was edited by Swiss artist Jürg Spiller and Marcel Franciscono criticized Spiller's collection of Klee's notes as "extensive but drastically rearranged", and added that the lectures "are interspersed with later notes and in part rearranged. Despite Spiller's notation of their sources in Klee's manuscripts, it is not always possible to determine from his arrangement where a lecture leaves off and an interpolation begins."[4]

In an earlier 1925 shorter book, Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch ('Pedagogical Sketchbook'), Klee published a condensation of his lectures at the Weimar Bauhaus.[4]


Author Paul Klee

Volume I - EssaysEdit

  • 1923 Wege des Naturstudiums ('Ways of Studying Nature')
  • 1924 Über moderne Kunst ('On Modern Art'), lecture held at Paul Klee's exhibition at the Kunstverein in Jena on 26 January 1924

Volume I - LecturesEdit

  • 1922 Beiträge zur bildnerischen Formlehre ('Contributions to a pictorial theory of form', part of his 1921-2 lectures at the Bauhaus)

Volume IIEdit


The original title is Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre ('Writings on form and design theory'), and the two volumes are titled Band I: Das bildnerische Denken ('Volume I: the creative thinking') and Band 2: Unendliche Naturgeschichte ('Volume 2: Infinite Natural History'); they were edited by Jürg Spiller and first published in Switzerland (Basel) and Germany (Stuttgart) by publishing house Benno Schwab, in 1956 and 1964 respectively.

The subtitles of the two volumes were rendered, for the English translation, 'The thinking eye' and 'The Nature of Nature'. The Italian translation is called Teoria della forma e della figurazione, and the two volumes are subtitled Il pensiero immaginabile and Storia naturale infinita. The French edition is called Contributions à la théorie de la forme picturale.

Online editionEdit

In 2016, the Zentrum Paul Klee museum in Bern, Switzerland, published digital versions of Klee's notebooks on their website.[6]


  1. ^ Disegno e progettazione By Marcello Petrignani p.17
  2. ^ Guilo Carlo Argan "Preface", Paul Klee, The Thinking Eye, (ed. Jürg Spiller), Lund Humphries, London, 1961, p.13.
  3. ^ The private Klee: Works by Paul Klee from the Bürgi Collection Archived 9 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 12 August - 20 October 2000
  4. ^ a b c Franciscono (1991) Part 6 'The Bauhaus and Düsseldorf', chap. 'Klee's theory courses', pp. 245-52 and under 'notes to pages 245-54' p.365
  5. ^ Herbert Read (1959) A concise history of modern painting, London, p.186
  6. ^ Marshall, Colin. "3,900 Pages of Paul Klee's Personal Notebooks Are Now Online, Presenting His Bauhaus Teachings (1921-1931)". Open Culture. Retrieved 3 March 2020.


  • Marcel Franciscono Paul Klee: His Work and Thought, University of Chicago Press, 406 pages, 1991, ISBN 0-226-25990-0.

External linksEdit