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Blue Monday

Today is Monday. The Monday of the last full week of January. Also known as: Blue Monday. Supposedly the most depressing day of the year.

Well, if we are feeling blue, let’s make a little study of that color. Boy, do I have the perfect artist for you today. Let’s have a look at the work of French artist Yves Klein (1928-1962).

Blue Monday
Yves Klein, L’accord bleu (RE 10), 1960. paint, sponges and stones on wood, 199 x 163 x 13 cm. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Artist Yves Klein is considered to be the most influential and controversial French artist of the 1950s-1960s.
When you enter this particular period of time in art history, though, things tend to get really complex. Or off-putting, for most people.

The danger of discussing artists like Yves Klein is that their work is super abstract, and filled with complicated theories about the universe, religion and so on.

It is the kind of complicated that makes people dislike modern art altogether. I totally understand, but it is such a waste! There can be so much beauty in it once you get the hang of it.

I will  give you some nice to know facts about Klein to keep it fun, but also present you my own version of looking at art works like this. You can stop reading at any time…

At the end of the 1950’s, Yves Klein starts creating works with only one color, with are referred to as his Monochromes. The deep shade of ultramarine that he uses, he even names after himself: International Klein Blue, or IKB. These are the works that Klein becomes famous for.
Ultramarine is the traditional symbolic color of the Holy Ghost in Christian religion. For Klein, it also brings into mind infinite skies and deep oceans.

In 1960 Klein does something new and interesting. He starts applying the IKB with female models. Naked women are covered in paint and press their bodies into the canvas, or even against gallery walls. That must have been quite the spectacle. One of those things that I would have loved to witness.
The image below is a work made with a woman’s body.

Blue Monday
Yves Klein, ANT 76, Grande anthropophagie bleue, Hommage à Tennessee Williams,
Pure pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas, 275 x 407 cm. Centre Pompidou, Paris.

If you like it or not, I will assure you that at the very least, Yves Klein’s work is very distinct. You will immediately recognize it in a museum. I hope that in the future, when you come across a totally blue painting, your ‘Yves Klein alarm bell’ will start ringing.

A little piece of applied art theory

Are you still reading? Great! This is my version of how to look at works with these kind of large color fields.
The idea is that you are standing in front of the painting. Usually the works are quite large, and I advise you to stand a little closer to it than you would normally do.
You try to let your eyes absorb the color(s), so to speak. This can take a while, and it might not even work at all to be honest. But if you have the right mindset, the work can actually do something with you. It can give you an experience. Abstract artists and critics call this experience transcendental, or the experience of the sublime.
Yes, I agree. When I first heard of it, I was skeptical too. To put it mildly. After all, I am Dutch, it’s in my DNA. But to my own suprise, it works. when the conditions are right, something will indeed happen to you. It is kind of like those hidden 3D drawings. You have to look closely and focus in a certain way. The hidden image will emerge. I would personally describe it as if the work evokes a certain emotion.

So when you are in a museum and see a large abstract color field painting, give it a go. You might be surprised. If so, I would love to hear your experience.

Happy Blue Monday.

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