Article, 2018

Testimonial: Yves Klein’s body imprints, told by Rotraut

Christian Lund

"That was very interesting for me, that the body and the soul is one in a print.”
Naked women as “human paintbrushes” in front of an audience, now considered landmark events in the history of performance art and “the most concentrated expression of vital energy imaginable,” according to the artist behind. In this video, Yves Klein’s widow and collaborator Rotraut shares what it was like to be part of the spectacular events, as a model working with the artist.

“Many people understood and others thought it was just for show.” Rotraut describes how Klein invited the French bourgeoisie to come to his studio and see how he painted. Here they were met by Klein dressed in bow-tie and suit and several nude models, who after painting themselves blue, laid down upon a white canvas and made imprints of their bodies by moving to Klein’s ‘Monotone Symphony’ (a single note played for twenty minutes, followed by twenty minutes of silence), conducted by Klein himself. Rotraut feels that Klein changed the academic way of working with models in response to their frustration of not being able to participate actively. Moreover, by painting yourself blue, she argues, you feel clothed: “There’s no strange ideas or anything. It’s very beautiful and natural… it’s so spiritual and you are in another place when there is a birth of a piece of art.”

Rotraut very much enjoyed doing the body prints with Klein, and when she saw her first print, she felt as if her soul was in the painting: “And that was very interesting for me, that the body and the soul is one in a print.” When Rotraut did the body prints, it wasn’t’ a performance as much as a piece of art, and as it was her great wish to help Klein with his work, it was an incredible moment for her: “For me it was a great honour to be able to be on his side.”

Excerpt from an interview with Rotraut, 1966 by Christian Lund, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Danemark

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Christian Lund
© Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2019