Paul Klee, the German painter, painted Ad Parnassun in 1932. The painting is made in oil on unprimed canvas. Presently, it is at Kunstmuseum Bern.
What is depicted in Ad Parnassun?
Ad Parnassun depicts a variety of geometrical forms, rendered in a warm as well as a cool palette. Showing basic shapes like parallelograms, triangles and circles, they suggest a scene of the landscape or a house under the sun.
Ad Parnassun – Analysis
The Latin title, Ad Parnassus means, in English, To Parnassus. Parnassus is a name of a mountain, which is referred to as the home of Apollo and Muses and in Collins English dictionary means ‘ a centre for poetic or other creative activity’. Interestingly, both meanings could well fit with the painting. The primary shapes and most simple application of colour as dots or points, do suggest a visual that we can relate to our surroundings. Yet we cannot confirm this painting as a realistic representation of the landscape. The formation transcends the spectator to a newer possibility of recognition and provides a chance to imagine. Paul Klee’s imaginative paintings sprouted from his observations of nature. But his observation went beyond the mere pictographic elements. Klee’s quest led him to introduce a visual language with the simplest of means, and suggest a palette of interpretations. Thus, imagination played an important role in his process as well as in his output. In his book Pedagogical Sketchbook (1953), The Thinking eye: The Notebooks of Paul Klee (1956 & 1964) he shares the development of his visual theories with explanations.
Having simplified shapes and colour application, the image effaces the possibility of specificity. The process transcends, and naturally, the interpretation varies from individual to individual. The surface of the painting is woven with hundreds of dots almost like a carpet. This minuscule treatment of the work helped the artist to play with light and colour throughout the painting. The blues create a cool atmosphere with fragments of warm dots in certain areas, somewhat reflecting dawn or dusk. Probably this atmosphere suggests imagining the circle as the sun and the triangle as a mountain. Klee’s works by large retain this tendency to have the possibility of multiple renditions. Closely observing nature, studying natural history, anatomy and anthropology Klee arrived at an understanding that explained how permutation and movements adjoined together in a number of stages that exist in natural forms. His process of painting imitated that process of creation. The paintings were not mere geometrical arrangements, rather they conveyed their emotive charge with the colour scheme. Klee’s study of music and colour theories might have helped him master the language of colour and its emotive charges. His deduction of the natural system of visual formation resulted in a repository of shapes and marks. This simple shapes and marks were improvised by Klee in his paintings, giving birth to enchanting images of an imagined world.
Klee’s series of paintings with colour patches of magic squares began in 1923. This particular work can be understood as the developed phase of Klee’s magic square paintings in 1932. A comparison to pointillism has been made with this set of works. The process of reduction to the simplest and most essential form/shape has been realized with the dots, giving essence to the true sense of abstraction.
For artists like Klee, the body of work becomes crucial in understanding the development of visual language. Among many, the three paintings that relate visibly to the Ad Parnassum are The Red Balloon (1922), Castle and Sun (1928) and the last one, Oriental Cathedral from the same year of Ad Parnassum, i.e 1922. Looking at the chronological progression one can understand the evolution of Klee’s visual language. The later works stand out with the use of dots or points.