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(b Nice, 28 Apr. 1928; d Paris, 6 June 1962). French painter and experimental artist, one of the most influential figures in European avant-garde art in the post-war period. Both his parents were painters, but he had no formal artistic training, and for much of his short life he earned his living as a judo instructor (in 1952–3 he lived in Japan, where he obtained the high rank of black belt, fourth dan). In the mid-1950s he began exhibiting ‘monochromes’, pictures in which a canvas was uniformly painted a single colour, usually a distinctive blue that he called ‘International Klein Blue’. He used this also for other works including sculptured figures, and reliefs of sponges on canvas. In a lecture given at the Sorbonne in 1959, Klein explained his theory of monochrome painting as an attempt to depersonalize colour by ridding it of subjective emotion and thus giving it a metaphysical quality.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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