1960

Par Yves Klein

"Living brushes"

First experience of "Living Brushes" at Robert Godet's apartment, 1958
9, rue Le-Regrattier, Île Saint-Louis, Paris, France
© Photo : All rights reserved
© Artwork : The Estate of Yves Klein c/o ADAGP, Paris
"I have been painting already for several years most often from models and even with the effective collaboration of models. Indeed, for a long time I have wondered why figurative paint- ers or even sometimes abstract painters such as Fautrier, for example, feel the need to paint nudes. To simply seek out a liv- ing human form to draw and to copy after nature was not good enough a reason for me; I felt that there must be something else. The nude model brings sensuality into the atmosphere. Careful: not sexuality!

Models create a sensual climate inside the studio, just as they do possibly outside, which permits the stabilization of the pic- torial matter. In the true sense of the Christian faith, which says: I believe in the incarnation of the word; I believe in the resurrection of the body, the body is the true sense of the theater of the word: the word is flesh!

And so I engaged models and I tried it; it was very beauti- ful. I was fascinated by the flesh, the delicacy of living skin, its extraordinary color and, paradoxically, at the same time, its colorlessness.

My models laughed at me as they watched me execute, with themselves as subjects, splendid and uniformly blue mono- chromes! They laughed but, more and more, felt themselves drawn to the blue.

One day, I understood that my hands, the tools by which I manipulated color, were no longer sufficient. I needed to paint monochrome canvases with the models themselves ... No, this was no erotic folly!

It was even more beautiful. I threw a large white canvas on the ground. I poured some twenty kilos of blue paint in the mid- dle of it and the model literally jumped into it. She painted the painting by rolling her body over the surface of the canvas in every direction.

I directed the operation standing up, moving quickly around the entire perimeter of that fantastic surface on the ground, guiding the model’s every movement, and repositioning her. The young woman, so inebriated by the action and by the close contact of her flesh with the blue, ended up no longer hearing me shouting at her: “Again a little more to the right, there, come back by rolling on that side, the other corner is not yet covered, come over here and apply your right breast, etc.”

There was never anything at all erotic or pornographic about these fantastic sessions, nothing amoral; when the painting was finished, my model took a bath. I never touched any of them; it is for this reason that they trust me and that they love to col- laborate with their entire bodies on my painting. It was the so- lution to the problem of distance in painting: my living brushes were commanded by remote control. 

With me, they understood; they were doing something; they were acting. Before, with the figurative artists who sketched them, they recognized themselves afterwards in the paint- ings. Then came the abstract artists and it became disquieting, psychological, and unhealthy. They, in fact, no longer under- stood what purpose they were serving.

With me, they first thought that I was insane; but soon they would not pass up any chance to come and pose for me or rather to come and work with me! "
Yves Klein, excerpt from "Come With Me Into the Void", Sunday, November 27th, 1960, The Newspaper of a Single Day, 1960


"Having had rejected brushes as too excessively psychological already earlier, I painted with rollers, in order to be remain anonymous and at a distance between the canvas and myself during the execution, at least intellectually..."
I very quickly perceived that it was the block of the human body, which is to say, the trunk and a part of the thighs that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and it does not think. The head, the arms, the hands are intellectual articulations around the flesh, which is the body!"
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Truth becomes Reality », 1960

"The mark of the immediate. This is what I needed!
… One will easily understand the process: at first my models laughed at seeing themselves transposed onto the canvass in monochrome, then they became accustomed to it and loved the values of the color, different for each canvas, even during the blue period where it was more or less the same tone, the same pigment, the same technique. Then while pursuing the adventure of the immaterial, little by little, I ceased producing tangible art, my studio empty, even the monochromes were gone. At that moment, my models felt that they had to do something for me … They rolled themselves in color, and with their bodies painted my monochromes. They had become living brushes!"
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Truth becomes Reality », 1960

"Whatever directed me towards anthropometry?
The answer can be found in my work during the years 1956 to 1957, when I was taking part in the adventure of creating the pictorial immaterial sensitivity. I had just removed from my studio all my former works. The result – an empty studio. My only physical action was to remain in my empty studio, and the creation of my pictorial immaterial states proceeded marvelously. However, little by little, I became mistrustful of myself: but never of the immaterial. I therefore hired models, as other painters do. But unlike the others, I merely wanted to work in their company rather than have them pose for me. I had been spending too much time alone in the empty studio; I no longer wanted to remain alone with the marvelous blue void that was budding. (...)
Today, the academicized easel-painters have reached the point of shutting themselves in their studios, confronting the terrifying mirrors of their canvases. Now the reason for my use of nude models becomes quite evident: it was a way of preventing the danger of secluding myself in the overly spiritual spheres of creation, thus rupturing with the most basic common sense, repeatedly affirmed by our incarnate condition. The shape of the body, its lines, its strange colors hovering between life and death, hold no interest for me. Only the essential, pure affective climate of the flesh is valid."
excerpt from « Chelsea Hotel Manifesto», 1961
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