Yves Klein was the most influential, prominent, and controversial French artist to emerge in the 1950s. He was born in Nice into a family of painters. A leading member of the Nouveau Réalisme movement which was founded in 1960, Klein was a pioneer in the development of Performance Art.
Klein is considered an inspiration as well as a forerunner of Minimal Art as well as Pop Art.
At the age of nineteen, Klein and his artist friends Arman Fernandez and Claude Pascal lay on the beach in the South of France and divided the world between themselves. Arman chose the the earth, Claude chose words, while Yves chose the ethereal space surrounding the planet, which he then proceeded to sign. With this symbolic gesture of signing the sky, Klein had foreseen, as in a reverie, the thrust of his art from that time onward - a quest to reach the far side of the infinite.
At the beginning of his career, Klein had painted monochromes. One of his first exhibitions, 'Proposte Monochrome, Epoca Blu' (Proposition Monochrome, Blue Epoch) featured 11 identical blue canvases, using ultramarine pigment suspended in a synthetic resin 'Rhodopas'.
Klein's table is similar to his suspended pigment pieces, which were the genesis. The form of the table is very simple, very elegant, and meant really to disappear. The pigment is all. And since the pigment is loose, it does invite comparison to Klein's belief in pure space: the eye penetrates what seems to be a limitless depth. There are three Klein tables: one filled with Klein International Blue pigment, one with rose madder, and one containing 3000 sheets of gold leaf.
Yves Klein is remembered above all for his use of a single color, the rich shade of ultramarine that he made his own: International Klein Blue. But the success of his sadly short-lived career lay in attacking many of the ideas that underpinned the abstract painting that had been dominant in France since the end of the Second World War. For some critics he is a descendent of Marcel Duchamp, a prankster who lampooned settled understandings of painting and opened art up to new media. Others consider him as a descendant of earlier avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Aleksander Rodchenko, who were also attracted to the monochrome. And even in the ways he used performance later on in his career, he is like many artists who rediscovered some of the tactics of earlier avant-gardes in the 1950s and '60s. Klein might also be compared to his contemporary Joseph Beuys, for, like Beuys, he embraced aspects of Romanticism and mysticism - Klein was intrigued by Eastern religion and Rosicrucianism, and was even influenced by judo. Also like Beuys, many have condemned him as an obscurantist and a charlatan: yet the brevity, wit, and seductive beauty of much of his work continues to inspire.
"The imagination is the vehicle of sensibility. Transported by the imagination, we attain life, life itself, which is absolute art."