Yves Klein’s void, his blue, and other provocations

By Liza G.

Yves Klein’s void, his blue, and other provocations

Yves Klein is a complex and perplexing artist that had greatly influence the art scene, even though his artistic path was tragically short. In the following article we will list some major facts about the oeuvre and theoretical views on art of this daring French artist.


It is very hard to give a certain definition of an artist, who works with the sky and the void. Yves Klein was a person to push forward new ideas, to challenge preconceived ideas of the art world using various, sometimes peculiar, methods and materials. Just like Joseph Beuys, he was interested in the spiritual, even mystical side of life and faith. Many of his works have a strong connection with religion, as well as with Judo, which Yves Klein practiced and adored. From the other side, he was a provocateur, who would constantly throw challenges and make elegant parodies on the old-fashioned audience and critiques. To see how exactly he implemented those principles on practice, we should get acquainted with his works.  

Blue Monochrome (1957)

Yves Klein is famous for creating his own shadow of blue - International Klein Blue. This monochromic painting was completed without any signs of brushstrokes etc. So the viewer could sink into the picture completely. It resemblance to the sky, or the sea also generates an additional meaning of a reference to something indefinite, something people cannot yet grasp. While Klein was still studying, together with friends he decided to choose the fields of interest. One chose the earth, another – words; Klein picked the sky, and made a gesture of signing it. “With this famous symbolic gesture of signing the sky, Klein had foreseen, as in a reverie, the thrust of his art from that time onwards—a quest to reach the far side of the infinite.” The blue color was also a symbol of the Holy Ghost in Catholicism and a traditional color for depicting clothing of Virgin Mary in Renaissance art works.

Blue Venus (1960) and Anthropométrie sans titre (1961)

Blue I was basically associated with Klein at the time. He used it in almost all of his works. For instance, he painted the copy of Greek Venus de Milo sculpture, basically presenting his monochrome again, but this time in the form of a sculpture.  By combining classical art with the contemporary tendencies, Klein marked the beginning of the Appropriation era, as well as a rising of pop-art that was famous for using traditional, even everyday objects to create something totally new. The Venus also symbolized the connection between people and some infinite powers, which were represented by International Klein Blue. This topic evolved in 1961 performance, where Klein asked nude models to paint themselves in his blue color and move along the canvases creating the imprints of human bodies. 

This was an allusion on the photos after Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing with body-shadows left on the ground. Klein continues interlinking humane aspect and the universal energies, connecting them with the latest events.

The void (1958)

During his exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery, Klein had decided to present audience…nothing. He removed everything from the gallery, leaving only an empty cabinet inside and staging the procedure of entrance.

 Bluе curtains were hanged at the entrance and windows were painted blue also. “Recently my work with color has led me, in spite of myself, to search little by little, with some assistance (from the observer, from the translator), for the realization of matter, and I have decided to end the battle. My paintings are now invisible and I would like to show them in a clear and positive manner, in my next Parisian exhibition at Iris Clert’s.” artist stated. But from another side, we could not overlook the attack on the galleries and the views on art they translated.

Mysterious, political, philosophical, daring  - these words are amongst the many epithets of Yves Klein’s oeuvre. Elegant, sharp, intelligent experiments he had presented in his art shaped the Conceptual movement as well as Minimalism, opening the variety of new horizons for the upcoming artists’ generations.


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