• Writings on monochromy

Article, 1955

Writings on monochromy

Yves Klein

"I thus seek to individualize color, for I have reached the conclusion that each color expresses a living world and I express these worlds in my painting. My paintings affirm the idea of absolute unity in the context of perfect serenity, an abstract concept represented in an abstract manner (...)
For me, each nuance of a color is, in some way, an individual, a being that is of the same race as the basic color but clearly pos- sesses a unique character and a distinct, personal soul.
There are nuances that are gentle, mad, violent, majestic, vulgar, calm, etc. In short, each color nuance is clearly a presence, a living being, an active force that is born and that dies after living a kind of drama in the life of colors.
Yves Klein, text for the exhibition Yves Peintures, Éditions Lacoste, 1955

I had begun to paint monochromatically alongside my usual painting, which was influenced by my parents, both of them artists, because it seemed that the color winked an eye at me. Besides, it filled me with wonder because in front of any painting, figurative or non-figurative I felt more and more that the lines and all that results from its – the contours, the forms, the perspectives, the compositions – became exactly like prison bars. Far away, I felt amidst color, life, and freedom. In front of the painting I felt imprisoned. I believe it is that same feeling of imprisonment
. (...)
It is without doubt through color that I have, little by little, be- come acquainted with the immaterial. The external influences that have made me pursue this monochromatic path to this im- material are manifold: first, the reading of the journals of Delacroix, the champion of color, whose work lies at the source of con- temporary lyrical painting; then a study of Delacroix in relation to Ingres, the champion of an academic art, who, in my view, by engendering the line and all its consequences brought today’s art to a crisis of form, as is expressed in the beautiful and gran- diose, dramatic adventure of Malevich or in Mondrian’s insolu- ble problem of spatial organization that has inspired the poly- chrome architecture from which our contemporary urban de- velopments suffer so atrociously. Finally, and above all, I received a profound shock when I discovered in the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi frescoes that are scrupulously monochromatic, uniform and blue, which I believe may be attributed to Giotto (but which might be by one of his pupils, or else by some fol- lower of Cimabué or even by one of the artists of the Sienna school (...)."

"It is without doubt through color that I have, little by little, be- come acquainted with the immaterial."
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Lecture at The Sorbonne », 1959

"This sense of the complete freedom of sensibly pure space exerted upon me such a power of attraction that I painted monochrome surfaces to see, with my own eyes to SEE, what was visible in the absolute." 
Yves Klein, excerpt from « Overcoming the problematics of Art », 1959

"Through color I feel the sentiment of complete identification with space; I am truly free. (...)
To feel the soul without explanation, without vocabulary, and to represent that feeling ... This is, I believe, foremost among the reasons that led me to the monochrome!
For me, the art of painting is to produce, to create freedom in the first material state. (...)
Color, for me, is the materialization of sensibility. (...)
For me, colors are living beings, highly evolved individuals that integrate themselves with us, as with everything. Colors are the true inhabitants of space. The line merely travels across, passes through space...(...) 
My paintings are the ashes of my art. It is the monochrome that make me the most intoxicated. I have tried I don’t know how many styles. I have been as much of a painter as it is per- mitted; I have advanced and become avant-garde; I have passed through all the periods; I have been insatiable and have drawn from wells of pleasures and consolations, which have already left me jaded. In any case I do believe that it is only in the monochrome that I truly live the pictorial life, the painterly life of which I have dreamed. (...)
For several years I have thus pursued this adventure, this pic- torial experiment based upon the sensorial, sensible, and the plastic resources of pure color, which is to say, of color present- ed as such, offered in and for itself to the readers. (...)
Never using the line, one has been able to create in painting a fourth, fifth, or whatever other dimension – only color can attempt to succeed in this exploit. The monochrome is the only physical way of painting – permitting us to attain the spiritual absolute." 
Yves Klein, excerpt from « The Monochrome Adventure: the monochrome epic », 1960 ca.