The colour blue is his legacy, but for artist Yves Klein, it was just a vehicle, a medium for him to explore the terrain of art expression. Very few artists in history have been associated with a colour, and Yves Klein, who died at the young age of 34, and was only practicing art for 7 short years, have left a legacy of not just a colour, but also his belief of what art should be, and how it should be enjoyed by the viewer.
Dry pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas. Photograph: © The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris
It’s a vivid intense ultramarine blue colour, certainly not something you’ll miss. A blue so rich your mind wanders off as you stare at it, where time stands still and details that you’ll usually miss, becomes evident and obvious. It is a far cry from the blue that was used in medieval and Renaissance art - this was a punch to the senses.
14, rue Campagne-Première, Paris, France. © Photo : Georges Véron. © Artwork : The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris
THE CREATION OF INTERNATIONAL KLEIN BLUE
What is art? What does it represent and what does it mean? These are the questions Klein explores and uses the International Klein Blue to highlight.
Lladró’s Gorilla in International Klein Blue and Gold Limited Edition retired in 2022 (left).
Yves Klein was a French artist who was a forerunner in the minimalist art movement. He had painted intensely vibrant monochromatic works since the 1950s but it wasn’t until his exhibition ’Epoch Blue’, when he decided to focus on just one monochromatic colour; International Klein Blue. Klein used a matt synthetic resin binder which allows the ultramarine pigment to greatly retain much of the original vibrancy.
For artist Yves Klein, he aimed to encourage the viewer to engage with an art piece using imagination and emotion, by using Klein Blue and eliminating all other visual clutter. His intent being “to make visible the absolute”, to move past the idea of art simply being a physical object and instead to think about art as the communication between the artist and the wider world, his art being a fragment of a larger concept. Klein conceived the idea that art and beauty can be found everywhere however, it is the artist job to reveal that beauty. Monochrome being his ideal medium to do this as it exposes many details which might not have been captured otherwise.
Klein’s legacy, one could argue is not simply the blue pigment he developed but a way to interpret and the appreciate the world and art and has since influenced much of contemporary art today. In his lifelong mission to “liberate colour from the prison that is the line” he melded together a way to expand our idea of what is tangible beauty and the artists involvement in art. He blurred the lines between performance art, sculpture, painting and conceptual art and capturing the idea that his whole life was art.
KLEIN’S NON-BLUE ART WORKS
Although he is mostly known for creating the eponymous colour, Klein has continually created art whilst exploring the same themes he tried to achieve with the Klein Blue works.
In 1958, he presented “The Void“, a gallery that appeared to be empty. Some people thought it was a joke, but Klein was translating a sentiment he’d seen in Asia when he was travelling whilst training to be a judo master. One of the main principles of Zen Buddhism is Śūnyatā. The best translation of that word and what it means to the English language is “emptiness“. But emptiness as a word has a weight of negativity associated with it, in which Śūnyatā does not. In fact, it has the opposite affect, a “spaciousness”, ‘‘fullness‘, “connectedness“, and “stillness“ that is missing in that translation. It’s the full meaning of Śūnyatā that Klein wanted to express. The Void has the stillness and connectedness that is required for all other art to start from. During the exhibition, he had a series of performances, from the abstract reliefs of planetary surfaces, and compositions where he used fire to create pieces on canvas, and his famous “Anthropometry“ performances, where he famously had nude female performers paint and imprint their bodies onto white canvases with Klein Blue paint in front of live audiences.
© Photo : Louis Frédéric. © Artwork : The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris.
His work “Monotone-Silence Symphony”, was another groundbreaking performance in which an orchestra plays a single note for 20 minutes, followed by another 20 minutes of silence. This was another exploration of Śūnyatā, in a different medium. When you experience it, you’ll notice that the one note does not appear monotonous. The richness of that note, played by different instruments, comes across differently. When you hear the same note over a period of time, you hear the nuances and depths of that note, expression or instrument, something that has never been explored before.
The newest addition to the Bold Blue collection - Little Monkey in Blue Gold Limited Edition (left).
Whatever you make of Klein’s work - he was passionate and bold as an artist. He was not a painter, he was not known for his technique, and what he tried to explore is far more intangible and subjective. Perhaps in a way it is ironic that in his search for Śūnyatā and nothingness, Klein became associated with colour, something that has to be physically perceived - it cannot be identified in nothingness.
LLADRO’S BOLD BLUE COLLECTION
The influence Yves Klein has on modern art cannot be understated. For Lladró, a brand renowned for its exquisite porcelain, they wanted to bring forward Yves Klein’s philosophy of Śūnyatā and emptiness to art lovers, as an homage to his legacy.
In creating a collection and pieces that are in that deep ultramarine blue, you can see details and textures that you will not usually notice in another piece. Although bold and striking, they are still elegant and sophisticated, with small touches of Lladró’s signature 24-karat gold lustre drawing the eye to a few key features.
Most of the collection is now sold out, as these limited edition pieces have been snapped up quickly by keen collectors.