Visual analysis: “Mask of Fear” by Paul Klee

Subject: Art
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 3
Word count: 798
Topics: Art History, Creativity, Painting, Symbolism

Table of Contents


Painted in 1932, the “Mask of fear” is an artistic masterpiece developed by Paul Klee just before Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany. The satirical painting embodies Klee’s creative genius and ability to blend both schematic and abstract art in a simplistic yet equally efficient manner. The curious personage has four distinct spindly legs showing that two people are either holding the mask or hiding behind it. The legs support a visage of stunned eyes, a handlebar mustache or a quizzical smirk, features that provide a satirical take on the art’s grim title. The painting remains a successful piece owing to the creator’s ability to utilize appropriate elements of art to embed critical political message that remains equally relative and open to interpretation of the various visual aspects.

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First, Klee developed his painting on burlap, a woven and rough cloth made of fiber. He used oil-based paints to develop the artwork on the unique medium. The medium is a critical visual element that enhances the aesthetic appeal of the artwork and its ability to communicate. The medium and the choice of paint safeguarded the durability of the hand-painted product. Furthermore, it improves the texture of the painting. The features of the medium complement the other artistic features. The burlap conceals the thick brush strokes the artist utilized while exposing some of the meticulous details like fine lines that are critical to the structural composition of the image.

The composition of the artwork is equally meticulous and ensures harmony in the overall piece. The painting comprises of various lines, shapes, and colors that complement each other to create a unified piece. The artist used a blend of soft colors like brown, grey and black in the composition. The painting is a summation of various shapes including ovals, circles, and semi-circles. The artist uses black lines to separate the multiple components thus revealing various features of the mask like the mustache, stunned eyes, and the four legs. The white eyes make the eyes, for example, look stunned while the thin black lines portray the quizzical smirk. The lines and curves are smooth to reflect the natural contours of a human face. The artist uses appropriate colors to achieve demarcation of various facial features. However, the size of the mask is too large to cover just a human face. Fortunately, he accounts for the eminent disproportionality by revealing the four legs to prove that the mask is indeed large enough to cover two people to their knees.

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The dimensions of Klee’s painting are 1M by 57CM. The size of the painting is critical to its success since it influences the scale of the other elements the artist utilizes in its composition. The size also relates to the viewer by revealing adequate details about the concept of the work. Klee sought to create the image of a large mask capable of covering substantial parts of the human body. The size of the painting thus achieves a life-size feel, which makes the image believable. The size of the various elements like lines, shapes, objects, and masses also complement the overall dimensions of the painting. The artist utilizes large shapes and lines that are commensurate with the large sizes. The scale of the elements reveals sufficient details of the mask thereby improving its communicative value.

The artist utilizes various soft colors that complement each other to provide a naturalistic feel to the resultant artwork. The colors include black, brown, white, gray and green. He balances the colors strategically in his attempt to create a believable mask. He paints the colors whites and uses thin black lines to separate the various parts of the mask including its boundaries. The soft shade of green background offers an appropriate contrast for the equally soft colors used to paint the other features of the mask. The colors enhance the compositional structure of the painting by revealing sufficient details and improving the overall soft texture of the painting. The effective balancing of the colors creates harmony on the whole artwork.

Summarily, Klee’s painting is an effective masterpiece that demonstrates effective utilization of the various visual elements to develop and communicate a theme. The portrait painting embodies Klee’s interest in children’s art and primitive folk-art. He uses every visual element strategically to represent the interests without jeopardizing his message. The simple lines help create small spindly legs characteristic of children’s artwork. The features of children artwork dominate the work as the artist strives to maintain simplicity. Primitive folk-art is equally visible from the artistic, clever utilization of the elements. Despite such simple sources of inspiration, Klee utilizes useful visual features to create a harmonious artwork that communicates and fascinates his target audience.

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  1. Klee, P. 1932. Mask of Fear (painting).
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