Yves Klein

Painting by Yves Klein

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Painting by Yves Klein

Yves Klein: A Dive into the Blue Abyss of Immaterial Sensibility

Painting by Yves Klein
Painting by Yves Klein

Yves Klein, born On April 28 1928 in Nice, had as a first vocation to be a judoka. It was only back in Paris, in 1954, that he dedicated himself fully to art, setting out on his ‘adventure into monochrome’.

Painting by Yves Klein
Painting by Yves Klein

Yves Klein’s art transcends the limitations of conventional aesthetics, opening up new realms of contemplation and experience. His monochromatic mastery, experiments with the immaterial, and visionary architectural concepts have left an enduring legacy in the art world. Klein’s influence continues to reverberate in contemporary art, reminding us that art is not confined to tangible forms but is a conduit for exploring the intangible and the boundless. As we immerse ourselves in the Blue Abyss of Yves Klein’s artistic universe, we find an invitation to explore the limitless possibilities that lie within the power of color, space, and the immaterial.

Painting by Yves Klein
Painting by Yves Klein
  1. Monochromatic Mastery: Yves Klein’s dedication to the use of a single color, notably International Klein Blue.
  2. Immaterial Sensibility: Exploration of the immaterial, exemplified by “The Void” and conceptual Void Architecture.
  3. Anthropometry: The incorporation of living brushes, blurring the lines between artist, artwork, and spectator.
  4. The Void and Void Architecture: Radical gestures challenging traditional notions and utopian architectural concepts.
  5. Spiritual Influence: Deep connections to Eastern philosophy and mysticism influencing Klein’s quest for transcendence.
Painting by Yves Klein
Painting by Yves Klein

Yves Klein, a visionary artist of the mid-20th century, left an indelible mark on the art world with his revolutionary approach to color, space, and the immaterial. Often referred to as the “Blue Master,” Klein’s avant-garde spirit and unorthodox methods challenged the conventions of his time. In this exploration, we delve into the enigmatic art style of Yves Klein, unraveling the mysteries of his iconic monochromatic works and the profound influence they have had on the trajectory of modern art.

I. Monochromatic Mastery: At the heart of Yves Klein’s art lies an unwavering dedication to monochromatic expression, with a particular emphasis on his iconic ultramarine hue, famously known as “International Klein Blue” (IKB). Klein believed that a single color could encapsulate the entirety of human experience, and his monochromatic works serve as a canvas for exploring the depth and nuances within that singular shade.

II. Immaterial Sensibility: Klein’s fascination with the immaterial manifested in his creation of “The Void,” an exhibition where he removed artworks from the gallery space, leaving empty white walls. This radical gesture challenged the traditional notions of tangible art, inviting viewers to engage with the space and experience the absence of material form as an art form in itself.

III. Anthropometry: Klein’s experiments with anthropometry, or “living brushes,” marked another avant-garde dimension of his art. Nude models covered in Klein’s signature blue paint would press their bodies against canvases, creating abstract imprints that blurred the boundaries between the artist, the artwork, and the spectator. This performative aspect of his practice added a theatrical quality to his oeuvre.

IV. The Void and the Void Architecture: Klein’s fascination with the concept of “The Void” extended beyond the gallery space. He envisioned the creation of “The Architecture of the Air,” a utopian concept that embraced emptiness and immateriality in architectural design. Though unrealized, these visionary ideas underscored Klein’s commitment to pushing artistic boundaries beyond the canvas.

V. Spiritual Influence: Klein’s art style was deeply influenced by his interest in Eastern philosophy and mysticism. The immersive quality of his monochromatic works and his exploration of the immaterial realm reflect a spiritual quest for transcendence and harmony.



Animated by a quest to ‘liberate colour from the prison that is the line’, Yves Klein directed his attention to the monochrome which, to him, was the only form of painting that allowed to ‘make visible the absolute’.

By choosing to express feeling rather than figurative form, Yves Klein moved beyond ideas of artistic representation, conceiving the work of art instead as a trace of communication between the artist and the world; invisible truth made visible. His works, he said, were to be ‘the ashes of his art’, traces of that which the eye could not see.

Yves Klein’s practice revealed of new way of conceptualising the role of the artist, conceiving his whole life as an artwork. ‘Art is everywhere that the artist goes’, he once declared. According to him, beauty existed everywhere, but in a state of invisibility. His task was to to capture beauty wherever it might be found, in matter as in air.

The artist used blue as the vehicle for his quest to capture immateriality and the infinite. His celebrated bluer-than-blue hue, soon to be named ‘IKB’ (International Klein Blue), radiates colourful waves, engaging not only the eyes of the viewer, but in fact allowing us see with our souls, to read with our imaginations.

From monochromes, to the void, to his ‘technique of living brushes’ or ‘Anthropometry’; by way of his deployment of nature’s elements in order to manifest their creative life-force; and his use of gold as a portal to the absolute; Yves Klein developed a ground-breaking practice that broke down boundaries between conceptual art, sculpture, painting, and performance.

Just before dying, Yves Klein told a friend, “I am going to go into the biggest studio in the world, and I will only do immaterial works.” 

Between May 1954 and June 6, 1962, the date of his death, Yves Klein burned his life to make a flamboyant work that marked his era and still shines today.


1954 – 1957
The international breakthrough
On his return from Japan, he publishes in Spain Yves peintures and Haguenault peintures and in Paris Les Fondements du judo. These publications reflect a dual career of judoka and artist which he manages simultaneously.

His Monochromes, initially of different colours, are shown for the first time at the club des Solitaires in 1955, then at Colette Allendy’s gallery the following year.

During 1957 he finalizes the fabrication of the colour he will call IKB (International Klein Blue) typical of the works of his “Epoque bleue” and which will remain his signature until 1959.

The shows at Milan, Paris, Düsseldorf and London will give “Yves le Monochrome” an international stature. In May 1957 two joint shows take place in Paris: “Yves Klein: Propositions monochromes” at Iris Clert and Colette Allendy galleries. His first action, the Sculpture aérostatique, a release of 1001 blue balloons Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, takes place during the opening at Iris Clert.



Back in Paris, he is challenged by the professional and institutional circles of judo. The French Judo Federation refuses to acknowledge his Japanese degree. 

In April, he signs a contract with the editor Bernard Grasset for his book The Foundations of Judo.

In May, invited by Fernando Franco de Sarabia, he moves to Madrid. He teaches judo at the Bushido Kwaï club, and becomes a technical advisor to the Spanish Judo Federation. He hangs monochrome pictures inside his room at the club. He visits Barcelona, San-Sebastian and Valencia.

In November, Yves Klein publishes Yves Peintures and Haguenault Paintings. These two collections of monochromes are produced and edited by the workshop of Fernando Franco de Sarabia, in Jaen, near Madrid. The preface signed Pascal Claude is composed of black lines in place of the text. The ten color plates are made up of unicolored rectangles cut out of paper with dimensions in millimeters. Each board shows a different place of creation, Madrid, Nice, Tokyo, Paris. Haguenault Paintings carries the mention of the collections. These two works constitute the first public gesture of Yves. Yves Paintings and Haguenault Paintings are works of art by which Yves Klein asks the question of illusion in art.

flamboyant work that marked his era and still shines today.The Heartbeat of France
Portrait of Yves Klein made on the occasion of the shooting of Peter Morley “The Heartbeat of France”, February 1961 Studio of Charles Wilp, Düsseldorf, Germany
© Photo : Charles Wilp / BPK, Berlin

1928 – 1953
The beginnings of artworks
Born in Nice in 1928, to Fred Klein (1898-1990) and Marie Raymond (1908-1989), both painters, Yves Klein is an autodidact. During his childhood the family lives between Paris and Nice. At a very young age, Yves works in his aunt’s bookshop in Nice where he befriends the future artist Arman and the poet Claude Pascal.

Inclined to traveling, between 1948 and 1953 he first goes to Italy, then to England – where he works at a frame maker’s learning gold-leaf gilding- to Ireland, Spain and finally to Japan.

Over these years he devotes a lot of time to judo: holder of the prestigious rank of 4th Dan, he teaches it regularly and documents it with films and writings. From the end of the 40’s his travel diaries mention the creation of monochromes on paper, while at the same time, he imagines a Monotone-Silence Symphony and writes film scripts on art.

Yves Klein was born on 28th April 1928 in Nice to Frederic Klein – aka Fred Klein (Bandung, 1898 – Paris, 1990), a Dutch figurative painter born himself in Indonesia. His mother, nee Marie Raymond (La Colle-sur-Loup, 1908 – Paris, 1989), is at the time a young artist who will eventually become a well-known abstract painter.


Yves spent his younger years between Cagnes-sur-Mer at La Goulette, an old property located at the Haut-de-Cagnes, Paris and its suburbs, and Nice, where the family finds shelter at Marie’s parents during more difficult periods. He also spent quite some time in Nice at his aunt’s, Rose Raymond. Her tender love for him, as well as her protection and financial support will extend throughout his lifetime.


In 1937, Marie and Fred will take part in the Paris Universal Exhibition on the theme of the four elements within the Cote d’Azur pavilion, an artwork sponsored by the Grasse Perfumes Association.


1939 → 1946
The war takes the Klein’s by surprise in Cagnes sur Mer. They sell the Goulette and rent a house in Haut de Cagnes, associate with Nicolas de Staël settled in Nice with his partner Jeanne Guiillou and her son, Antek, a playfellow of Yves. They come across the group of Grasse: Alberto Magnelli, Jean Arp, Sophie Tauber, Sonia and Robert Delaunay etc.


Source: Yves Klein