Allan Blank was inspired by Paul Klee and Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens’ poetry was inspired by Paul Klee. Paul Klee’s painting was inspired by music.
Recently, I discovered two works by Allan Blank, which were inspired by Paul Klee and Wallace Stevens. The composition “Taking a Line for a Walk” was motivated by one of Paul Klee’s most famous quotations “Drawing is taking a line for a walk.” Which refers to the idea of first drawing a line on a page and seeing what art you can create through this seemingly simple action. Allan Blank found many poets inspiring and decided to set Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Reader” to music. Stevens was known for his complex language and exacting technical style. Both Klee and Stevens were Abstractionists creating some of their most renowned works at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Born in Switzerland to a music teaching father and singer mother, art and music was a part of Paul Klee’s life from the very start. Klee began his painting career in his teenage years, first with landscapes then later exploring the Abstract movement. However, Paul Klee would continue to pursue music by playing the violin in local orchestras. Yet, it was in 1914 when his striking color theory truly developed. Utilizing, color blocks, especially in simplistic shapes, the artist would build scenes and create harmony. One work that encapsulates Klee’s sensibilities is “The Bavarian Don Giovanni”. This piece displays the painter’s abstract style, color palette and musical influences. Particularly, the names Emma and Thérèse were singers that Klee was associated with, Don Giovanni is an opera, and he used complementary color triangles to construct the piece’s action. Music continued to be incorporated through painting themes and music notes hidden in his works. Paul Klee’s style continued to evolve, but still retained his musical and color motifs until his death in 1940.
Wallace Stevens, unlike many of his contemporaries, did not make writing his primary career. Instead he worked in insurance sales most of his adult life, only writing poetry on the side. Born in Pennsylvania in 1879, Stevens was blessed with parents that encouraged his early love of reading and literary pursuits, yet cautioned practicality for employment. The poet’s works focused on imagination shaping our reality and he found like-minded philosophies in the Abstract movement. Often, Wallace Stevens would visit museums and galleries finding inspiration. This is how he first encountered the works of Paul Klee; the world building Klee used with simple shapes and colors meshed with Stevens’ attitudes towards poetry and imagination creating reality. While Wallace Stevens was alive, his poems were met with critical acclaim, but mainstream popularity eluded him until after his death in 1955.
“The Reader” by Wallace Stevens
All night I sat reading a book,
Sat reading as if in a book
Of somber pages.
It was autumn and falling stars
Covered the shrivelled forms
Crouched in the moonlight.
No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, “Everything
Falls back to coldness,
Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermilion pears
Of the leafless garden.”
The somber pages bore no print
Except the trace of burning stars
In the frosty heaven.
Did Allan Blank know the connections between Paul Klee and Wallace Stevens when creating his compositions? Probably. Or perhaps, like Klee and Stevens, he found inspiration flowing from painting, poetry and music.