The child of two artists, Yves Klein’s penchant for painting ran in his blood. With no artistic training, Klein sought inspiration from his surroundings, jazz, eastern religions and esoteric literature. The young artist famously ‘divided up the universe’ with his creative friends, poet Claude Pascal and artist, Arman Fernadez. Pascal claimed language, Fernandez ruled the animal kingdom and Klein crucially chose the sky, claiming it to be his ‘first artwork.’ Convinced the future of the art world would be monochrome, Klein devoted his career to the colour blue, creating the International Klein Blue as a result. The exact formula for the colour has still never been revealed, with many creatives attempting to replicate it even today.
Born on the 28th April 1928, Klein is undoubtedly an icon of contemporary art, and his enchanting blue works continue to inspire the art world today. In honour of the incredible Yves Klein, Artupia brings you five facts you didn’t know about the artist.
1. He used living paintbrushes
Klein’s ‘Anthropometry works’ saw nude female models covered in his international Klein Blue paint and dragged across the canvas to create provocative prints. His ‘living brushes’ caused major controversy as female nudity was still considered an erotically-charged concept in the early sixties.
Yves Klein's Anthropometry Works
2. He was a martial arts maestro
Travelling to Japan in the 1950s, Klein perfected the art of Judo, becoming the first European to achieve the 4th Dan black belt rank. His passion was later manifested in both a Judo club and book (The Foundations of Judo). The young Klein mastered the art of not only martial but additionally visual arts, which went on to inspire his hypnotic blue works.
Yves Klein in his Judo Uniform
3. He painted with fire
A year after his ‘living brushes’, Klein insisted the humble paintbrush wouldn’t suffice in realising his artworks. Klein therefore, used one of the most destructive elements to burn charred imprints onto various surfaces, creating emotionally-charged masterpieces with his flamethrower.
Burnt cardboard on panel
© The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris
4. His individuality killed him
Klein tragically died at the tender age of 34 after three successive heart attacks. The potent chemicals Klein used in his works were said to have contributed to his declining health.
Yves Klein with his work, La Terre bleue, 1957
5. His multi-million dollar work got stepped on
In April 2017, a gallery-goer accidentally walked through Klein’s distinctive International Klein Blue artwork in Nice. Although the footprint was later rectified, the same mistake was made a few months later in Belgium.
Staff at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels after the incident