Yves Klein

20th century French visual artist

Yves Klein (28 April 19286 June 1962) was a French artist and is considered an important figure in post-war European art. He made a lot of monochrome paintings, mostly in his famous blue, and in gold colour. He had a lot of influence on Manzoni, the Zero-artists and Joseph Beuys.


Klein, 1957: '1001 blue balloons' - reconstruction in 2007 of the original happening of 1957, announcing Klein's 'Blue period' with his exhibition in galerie Iris Glert, in Paris
Yves Klein, 1962: 'IKB 191', painting
Klein, early 1960's: 'Fungi relief in music-theater in Revier


  • Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions, whereas the other colours are not. They are pre-psychological expanses, red, for example, presupposing a site radiating heat.. .All colours arouse specific associative ideas, psychologically material or tangible, while blue suggests at most the sea and sky, and they, after all, are in actual, visible nature what is most abstract.
    • Quote from Yves Klein's lecture at the Sorbonne in 1959; published in Studio International, Vol. 186 (1973), p. 43; also quoted in: David Batchelor (2008) Colour. p. 122
  • ..the thinking man is no longer the center of the universe, but the universe is the center of the man [referring to collaborations between artists, in which Klein was involved several times]. We shall then know 'prestige' in comparison to the 'vertigo' of before. Thus we shall become men of the air, we shall know the upward force of attraction, towards space, towards nowhere and everywhere at once; having thus mastered the earthly force of attraction we shall literally levitate in complete physical and spiritual freedom.
    • Quote in: "Discours pronounce a l'occasion de l'exposition Tinguely a Düsseldorf", Jan. 1959; as quoted in Dali and Me, Catherine Millet, (translated by Trista Selous), Scheidegger & Spiess AG, 8001 Zurich Switzerland, p. 127

"Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings"

Quotes before 1960, from: Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings, ed. J & J, the Tate Gallery, London 1974
  • In 1946, when I was still an adolescent, I went and signed my name on the other side of the sky during a fantastic 'realistico-imaginary' voyage.
    • p. 14
  • It was in 1947 that the idea of a conscious monochrome vision came to me.. .Pure, existential space was regularly winking at me, each time in a more impressive manner, and this sensation of total freedom attracted me so powerfully that I painted some monochrome surfaces just to 'see', to 'see' with my own eyes what existential sensibility granted me; absolute freedom! But each time I could neither imagine or think of the possibility of considering this as a painting, a picture, until the day when I said: Why not?
    • p. 15
  • To project my mark outside myself – but I did it! [walking in the streets of Venice Klein wore a shirt imprinted with the marks of his own hands and feet].. .I found myself confronting everything that was psychological in me. I had proof that I had five senses, that I knew how to get myself to function! And then I lost my childhood...
    • In 1947; p. 19
  • Friday, 14 March,
Day is blue
silence is green
life is yellow
light traces
lines, and never ends,
and I trail behind
transpierced by indifference!
    • In 1952; p. 21
  • It was pure chance that led me to judo. Judo has helped me to understand that pictorial space is above al the product of spiritual exercises. Judo is in fact the discovery by the human body of a spiritual space.
    • In 1953; p. 21
  • Dubbed as a Knight of the Order of Saint Sebastian, I espoused the cause of pure colour, which has been invaded by guile, occupied and oppressed in cowardly fashion by line and its manifestation; drawing in Art. I aimed to defend and deliver it, and lead it to triumph and final glory.
    • In 1956; p. 27
  • At the Galerie Colette Allendy I exhibited some twenty monochrome surfaces, all in different colours: greens, reds, yellows, purples, blues, oranges.. ..and so found myself at the start of my career in this style.. .I was trying to show colour, but I realized at the private view that the public were prisoners of a preconceived point of view and that, confronted with all these surfaces of different colours, they responded far more to the inter-relationship of the different propositions, they reconstituted the elements of a decorative polychromy.
    • In 1956; p. 30
  • I was trying to show colour, but I realized at the private view that the public were prisoners of a preconceived point of view and that, confronted with all these surfaces of different colours, they responded far more to the inter-relationship of the different propositions, they reconstituted the elements of a decorative polychromy.
    • In 1956; p. 30
  • It was then that I remembered the colour blue, the blue of the sky in nice that was at the origin of my career as monochromist. I started work towards the end of 1956 and in 1957 I had an exhibition in Milan which consisted entirely of what I dared to call my 'Epoque bleue'.
    • In 1957; p. 31
  • This period of blue monochrome was the product of my pursuit of the indefinable in painting which that master, Eugène Delacroix [Romantic French painter] was able to indicate even in his day.
    • In 1957; p. 33
  • The glaring obviousness of my paternity of monochromy in the twentieth century is such that even if I myself were to fight hard against that fact I should probably never manage to rid myself of it.
    • In 1957; p. 34
  • My monochrome pictures are not my definite works, but the preparation for my works. They are the left-overs from the creative processes, the ashes. My pictures, after all, are only the title-deeds to my property which I have to produce when I am asked to prove that I am a proprietor.
    • In 1957; p. 35
  • I had left the visible, physical blue at the door, outside, in the street. The real blue was inside, the blue of the profundity of space, the blue of my kingdom, of our kingdom!. ..the immaterialisation of blue, the coloured space that can not be seen but which we impregnate ourselves with.. .A space of blue sensibility within the frame of the white walls of the gallery.
    • In 1958; p. 41
  • I want to take as the canvas for my next picture the entire surface of France. This picture will be called 'The Blue Revolution'. It isn’t the fact of my taking power in France that interests me, but rather the possibility of creating a monochrome picture in my new manner: ‘The Refinement of Sensibility’.
    • In 1958; p. 43
  • Through all these researches into an art that would lead to immaterialisation, Werner Ruhnau [German architect] and I came together in the architecture of the air. He was hindered by the last obstacle that even a w:Mies van der Rohe [also a German architect, famous for his reflecting glass skyscrapers in the U.S.] hadn’t been able to overcome: the roof, the screen that separates us from the sky, from the blue sky. And I was hindered by the screen that the tangible blue on the canvas constitutes, which deprives man of a constant vision of the horizon.
    • In 1958; p. 45
  • The immaterial Blue colour shown at Iris Clert’s in April [1958, together with Jean Tinguely ] had in short made me inhuman, had excluded me from the world of tangible reality; I was an extreme element of society who lived in space and who had no means of coming back to earth. Jean Tinguely saw me in space and signaled to me in speed to show me the last machine to take to return to the ephemerality of material life.
    • In 1958; p. 47

'Ritual for the Relinquishment of the immaterial Pictorial Sensitivity Zones', Yves Klein, 1957-59

Quotes from: 'Ritual for the Relinquishment of the immaterial Pictorial Sensitivity Zones', Yves Klein, 1957-59; as quoted in 'Yves Klein 1928 – 1962: A Retrospective', Institute for the Arts, Rice University and Arts Publishers, Houston and New York 1982
  • The immaterial pictorial sensitivity zones of Yves KLEIN, the Monochrome, are relinquished against a certain weight of fine gold. Seven series of these pictural immaterial zones all numbered exist already; for each zone relinquished a receipt is given. This receipt indicates the exact weight of pure gold which is the material value correspond to the immaterial acquired. The zones are transferable by their owner. (See rules on each receipt.)
    • p. 207
  • Every possible buyer of an immaterial pictorial sensitivity zone must realize that the fact that he accepts a receipt for the price which he has payed takes away all authentic immaterial value from the work, although it is in his possession. In order that the fundamental immaterial value of the zone belong to him and become a part of him, he must solemnly burn his receipt, after his first and last name, his address and the date of the purchase have been written on the stub of the receipt book.
    • p. 207
  • In case the buyer wishes this act of integration of the work of art with himself to take place, Yves Klein must.. ..plus two witness, throw half of the gold received in the ocean, into a river or in some place of nature where this gold cannot be retrieved by anyone. From this moment on, the immaterial pictorial sensitivity zone belongs to the buyer absolutely and intrinsically.
    • p. 207


  • At present, I am particularly excited by 'bad taste'. I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed 'The Work of Art'. I wish to play with human feeling, with its 'morbidity' in a cold and ferocious manner. Only very recently I have become a sort of gravedigger of art (oddly enough, I am using the very terms of my enemies). Some of my latest works have been coffins and tombs. During the same time I succeeded in painting with fire, using particularly powerful and searing gas flames, some of them measuring three to four meters high. I use these to bathe the surface of the painting in such a way that it registered the spontaneous trace of fire.
    • Quote from Klein's 'Chelsea Hotel Manifesto', 1961; from the Yves Klein Archives - archived from the original on 15 January 2013; as cited on Wikipedia: Yves Klein
    • After the opening of his unsuccessful exhibition at Leo Castelli's Gallery, New York 1961, Klein stayed with Rotraut Uecker (fr) at the Chelsea Hotel for the duration of the exhibition. While there, he wrote the 'Chelsea Hotel Manifesto', a proclamation of the 'multiplicity of new possibilities'

"Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings"

Quotes, 1960 and later, from: Yves Klein, 1928 – 1962, Selected Writings, ed. J & J, the Tate Gallery, London 1974
  • The immaterial told me that I was indeed an occidental, a right-thinking Christian who believes in the 'Resurrection of the flesh'. A whole phenomenology then appeared, but a phenomenology without ideas, or rather without any of the systems of official conventions. What appeared was distinct from form and became Immediacy. 'The mark of the immediate' – that was what I needed.
    • In 1960; p. 53
  • I remain detached and distant, but it is under my eyes and my orders that the work of art must create itself [Klein directed on 9 March 1960 for the first time nude models who were painting the walls with their moving naked bodies, he called this "Anthropometry"]. Then, when the creation starts, I stand there, present at the ceremony, immaculate, calm, relaxed, perfectly aware of what is going on and ready to welcome the work of art that is coming into existence in the tangible world.. .Hours of preparation for something that is executed, with extreme precision, in a few minutes. Just as with a judo throw.
    • In 1960; pp. 55-57
  • I dash out to the banks of the river [river the 'Loup', at Cagnes, France] and find myself amongst the rushes and the reeds. I grind some pigment over all this and the wind makes their slender stalks bend and appliqués them with precision and delicacy on to my canvas, which I thus offer to quivering nature: I obtain a vegetal mark. Then it starts to rain; a fine spring rain: I expose my canvas to the rain.. ..and I have the mark of the rain! – a mark of an atmospheric event.
    • In 1960; p. 61
  • I made the flames lick the surface of the painting in such a way that is recorded the spontaneous traces of the fire. But what is it that provokes in me this pursuit of the impression of fire? Why must I search for its traces? Because every work of creation, quite apart from its cosmic position, is the representation of pure phenomenology – every phenomenon manifests itself of its own accord. This manifestation is always distinct from form, and is the essence of the immediate, the trace of the immediate.
    • In 1961; p. 67
    • Klein's quote on making paintings with a flame-thrower
  • Today anyone who paints space must actually go into space to paint [the Russian cosmonaut Gagarin said on 12 April 1961 from his space capsule: 'The earthy is a beautiful blue colour'], but he must there go without any faking, and neither in an aeroplane, a parachute nor a rocket; he must go there by his own means, an autonomous, individual force; in a word, he must be capable of levitating.
    • In 1961; p. 67

from posthumous publications

  • The essential of painting is that something, that 'ethereal glue', that intermediary product which the artist secretes with all his creative being and which he has to place, to encrust, to impregnate into the pictorial stuff of the painting.
    • Yves Klein, catalogue of exhibition in the Jewish Museum, New York 1967, p. 18
  • The world is blue.
    • Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, p. 182
  • Space is waiting for our love, as I am longing for you; go with me, travelling through space.. [line in a poem of Klein himself]
    • De Tweede Helft, Ad de Visser, SUN, Nijmegen 1998, p. 107
  • A bill for 20 grams of Pure Gold, for one painted area of sensibilized immaterial. [about 1958, text on a bill for selling 'air']
    • De Tweede Helft, Ad de Visser, SUN, Nijmegen 1998, p. 106
  • I am against the line and all its consequences: contours, forms, composition. All paintings of whatever sort, figuratives or abstract, seem to me like prison windows in which the lines, precisely are the bars.
    • Gilbert Perlein and Bruno Cora, Yves Klein: Long live the Immaterial, Delano Greenidge Edition, New York, 2001. p. 74

Quotes about Yves Klein

  • You [Yves Klein] are the 'monochrome bleu' and I [Manzoni] am the 'monochrome blanc'; we should start to cooperate together, we two. [during their first meeting]
    • Piero Manzoni (c. 1959) in "De Tweede Helft", Ad de Visser, SUN, Nijmegen 1998, p. 161 (translation, Anne Porcelijn)
  • One day (in late 1947 or early 1948), Yves arrived saying 'look what I found.' He showed me The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. We tried to read the book and discovered that without a master we could not understand it. [Ultimately, the two young men would discover in an old astrologer, Louis Cadeaux, a spiritual guide to the hermetic Rosicrucian doctrine].
    • Claude Pascal, quoted in 'Yves Klein', Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1983
  • Clement Greenberg talked about the ideas or possibilities of painting.. ..and he allows a blank canvas to be an idea for a painting. It might not be a good idea, but it’s certainly valid. Yves Klein did the empty gallery. He sold air, and that was a conceptualized art, I guess.
    • Frank Stella (1966), in 'Questions to [Frank] Stella and [Donald] Judd', Bruce Glaser, in 'Art New 65' no 5, September 1966
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