Yves Klein was one of the most influential French artists to emerge in the 1950s, renowned for his blue monochrome paintings and for his daring experiments with new techniques and attitudes towards art. Born in Nice in 1928 to a family active in Art Informel and the Post-Impressionist movement, Klein was influenced by idea, form and color and began practicing art at age 19. During his adolescence, he began to paint and practice judo. Klein composed his first one-note Symphonie monotone (Monotone Symphony) in 1947. From 1948 to 1952, he traveled to Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan, permanently settling in Paris in 1955, where he was given a solo exhibition at the Club des Solitaires. His first monochrome theories, the beginning of an enormous body of work, were shown at the Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, in 1956.
In 1957, Klein entered his blue period in Paris, and a double exhibition of his work was held at the Galerie Iris Clert and the Galerie Colette Allendy. In 1958, Klein presented his groundbreaking conceptual exhibition The Void, which presented an empty Galerie Iris Clert. Also that year, Klein created a live performance with nude models or “living paintbrushes,” where he instructed them to cover their bodies with paint and press their bodies across surfaces. These Anthropometries, as the performances are called, recorded gestural impressions and the physical energy of the body. In 1960, Klein patented the formula for a rich ultramarine pigment, International Klein Blue (IKB).
Klein is associated with the Parisian New Realism movement, and as the only real painter in the founding group, he became a highly influential artist whose radical techniques and conceptual gestures laid the groundwork for much of the art in the 1960s and 1970s. His wide range of avant-garde works in pure pigments, gold leaf, fire, water and water, live nude models, actions and events, challenged dominant ideas that underpinned abstract painting in France since the end of WWII.
In 1961, he presented a major retrospective in Krefeld, Germany. Recent retrospectives include “Yves Klein,” Guggenheim Bilbao (2005); “Body, Colour, Immaterial,” Centre Pompidou (2006-7) and “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C. (2010).