Who Are They?

Who is Yves Klein?

Meet the awesome artist who invented his own colour!

Yves Klein, ‘IKB 79’ 1959
Yves Klein
IKB 79 1959
Tate
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019

This may be just a blue square to you. But it is actually a picture painted with a very special blue.

This blue was invented by artist Yves Klein and he called it International Klein Blue or IKB for short.

This is number 79 of about 200 paintings he made using IKB. We call these paintings monochrome paintings. Monochrome means one colour, so a monochrome painting is a painting that only includes one colour.

So I suppose you are wondering why he invented a colour?

It all started in 1947, when three young artist friends were on holiday in Nice, France. On a beautiful sunny day, they decided to carve up the world between them. One would take the land, another the air and the last would take the sky. Yves Klein was the artist who took the sky.

Klein saw the sky as a place where an artist could be free to think their own thoughts without being influenced by what people thought on the ground.

This photograph shows Klein leaping into the air. It looks as if he is flying, but really the photograph is a fake!

Yves Klein Leap into the Void 1960

Yves Klein
Leap into the Void 1960
© Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris
Photo: Shunk–Kender
© Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

Klein made the photograph to show us how free we might be if we could leap into space. IKB was the colour he imagined pure space might be.

Klein was also interested in the way we attach different emotions to colour. Like anger to red or jealousy to green. What emotion do you think Klein thought IKB might have?

Klein was an important figure in post-war art. He was a member of the nouveau réaliste movement that began in France in the 1950s. Nouveau réalism was a bit like pop art, in that the artists used everyday objects in their paintings.

They also staged happenings, which were a bit like performances. Klein once staged a happening where he painted naked women in IKB and then the women pressed their bodies onto paper, it was considered very shocking at the time.

Sadly Klein died from a heart attack in Paris in 1962 when he was only 34. Who knows what exciting things he might have created if he had lived longer…

Do you like Klein’s artwork? If you could make a colour what would it be? Have you tried to make artwork in just one colour?

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