• Writings excerpt : blue

Article, 1959

Writings excerpt : blue

Yves Klein

"How did I happen to enter this blue period? Between 1955 and 1956 I exhibited at Colette Allendy some twenty monochrome canvases, all in different colors: green, red, yellow, violet blue, orange. Thus I found myself at the beginning, or at least the first public showing, of this style. I was attempting to show color, and I realized at the opening of the exhibition that the public, imprisoned by their learned ways of seeing, when presented with all those canvases of different colors hanging on the walls, reassembled them as components of polychromatic decoration. The public could not enter into the contemplation of the color of a single canvas at a time, and that was very disappointing to me, because I precisely and categorically refuse to create on one surface an interplay of even two colors.
In my view two, two colors juxtaposed on one canvas compel the observer to see the spectacle of this juxtaposition of two colors, or even of their perfect accord rather than entering into the sensibility, the dominant color, the pictorial intention. This is a situation of the psyche, of the senses, of the emotions, which perpetuates a sort of reign of cruelty [Laughter], and one can no longer plunge into the sensibility of pure color, without any outside contamination."

Yves Klein, excerpt from Lecture at the Sorbonne, 1959

"Unfortunately, it became apparent from the responses to that occasion, and especially during a debate organized at the Colette ALLENDY Gallery, that many of the spectators were prisoners of a conditioned way of seeing and remained sensitive to the relationships between the different propositions (relationships of colors, of intensities, of dimensions and architectural integration), reconstituting the elements of a decorative polychromy. It is this that led me to push my attempt further still, this time in Italy at the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan, in an exhibition dedicated to what I dared to call my Blue Period. (In fact, I had already dedicated myself for more than a year to the search for the most perfect expression of Blue).
This exposition was comprised of ten paintings in dark ultramarine blue, all of them rigorously similar in tone, intensity, proportions, and dimensions. The rather passionate controversy that arose from this manifestation proved to me the value of the phenomenon and the real profundity of the upheaval that comes in its wake to those unwilling to submit passively to the sclerosis of accepted ideas and set rules.
I am happy, despite all my errors and all my naïveté, and despite the utopias in which I dwell, to find myself researching so current a problem. 
In fact, in the atomic age, where all that is material can suddenly vanish to leave nothing behind but what can be imagine as the most abstract, I may be permitted to recount the following tale from ancient Persia:
A flute player one day began to play only a single and unique continuous sound. Having done so for more than twenty years, his wife finally pointed out to him that other flute players have produced many harmonic and melodic sounds, etc., and that this was all the same perhaps more interesting and varied. To this the monotone flute player replied that it was not his fault that he had found the note for which the others were still in the process of searching!
Each of these blue propositions, all similar in appearance, were perceived by the public as clearly distinct from each other. The nonprofessionals passed from one to the next, as was fitting, penetrating in an instant state of contemplation the worlds of blue.
But each painting’s blue world, although of the same blue and treated in the same way, revealed itself to be of entirely different essence and atmosphere; none resembled the other anymore than pictorial moments and poetic moments resemble each other. Though all are alike in nature, superior and subtle (detection of the immaterial).
The most sensational observation was that of the buyers. Each selected from among the eleven displayed paintings the one that pleased them the most and paid its price. The prices, of course, were all different. This fact demonstrated that, on the one hand, the pictorial quality of each painting was perceptible by something other than the material and physical appearance and, on the other, that those who made their choice recognized that state of things to which I refer as Pictorial Sensibility.
To those who keep telling me after all this was done that I could go no further: I am going to continue in this spirit, having thus detected the existence of the pictorial sensibility. I repeat it here once again, my master DELACROIX had, well before me, announced it under the name of the INDEFINABLE, but has been imperative to me that I rediscover it myself in order to make the Blue Period into an initiation for both for the public and for myself.

Yves Klein, excerpt from « The Monochrome Adventure: the monochrome epic », 1960 ca.