Looking back at this figure
The eyes immediately catch our attention in this bright, powerful painting by Paul Klee. One of them looks upward to the bold, stubby arrow; the other looks out at us, as if responding to the arrow’s power. Notice the force field of brushwork around the simply painted face. Its bright light and color shimmer in swirling lines, pulling our eyes away from the center of the picture. Klee wrote that “the father of the arrow is the thought,” and here he may be painting a field of mental energy in which the central figure is transfixed by a sudden idea. Some viewers see a frightened person threatened by some enigmatic menace. The painting gains much power from the contrast of the central images with the background. If you block out the center by holding your hand between your eyes and the painting, the full effect of Klee’s swirling brushwork can be felt. Lower your hand to reveal just the arrow; then the face, as far as the chin; finally, the whole center of the painting. You can see that completely different visual meanings seem to emerge. Even Klee’s signature and date hold logical and expressive positions in this exciting but orderly composition.
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