Yves Klein was a French mixed media artist born in 1928 in Nice. Coming from a family of artists (his mother was Marie Raymond and his father Fred Klein), he began by pursuing studies to become a marine officer. However, he ended up dedicating himself to Judo instead and leaving for Japan to create his own school in 1955. It closed the following year for financial reasons.

Drawing inspiration from the sky that he observed from the beach in Nice, Klein started to paint monochromes at the end of the 1940s. His first exhibition was at the Club des Solitaires in 1955 in Paris. He created International Klein Blue in 1956, which, in his opinion was the best expression of the color blue. Klein had multiple exhibitions in 1957 in Milan, London, Düsseldorf, and Paris. The artist had started to paint with natural sponges before choosing a paint roller. His collaboration to the construction of the Gelsenkirchen theatre from 1957 to 1959 enabled him to work on his Reliefs-Éponges. Later on he made sponge sculptures, meant to represent the spectators of his works.

In 1960 he made « Anthropometries, » imprints of women’s naked bodies painted in blue on white canvases. He also participated with Pierre Restany in the creation of new realism. The founding declaration was signed by his peers such as Raymond Hains, Jacques Villeglé, François Dufrêne and Jean Tinguely. In Krefeld, at the Haus Lange museum, he had a retrospective where he presented sculptures of fire jets and a series of ‘painted’ canvases with a flame-thrower. Klein saw color as something « human and natural, » something that would enable the observer to « bathe in a cosmic sensibility. » The same year he had exhibits in Milan, New York, Los Angeles and Rome. He married the artist Rotraut Uecker in 1962 but in June, Klein died of a heart attack.

The artist was also one of the pioneers of conceptual art. His most well-known work in this area was The Void, his exhibition of an empty gallery space with certificates for non-existing works and his publication of a magazine with one issue, documenting his Leap into the Void. The years during which he had the career of an artist were compressed into 8 but Klein accomplished more in this space of time than many of his peers did in 40.
Yves Klein
Photo Credit : © Harry Shunk and Janos Kender