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Short biography
Yves Klein was born in Nice, France, to a pair of painters, Fred Klein and Marie Raymond. They held regular soirées with other leading practitioners of French abstract art. He was raised in Paris and in Cagnes-sur-Mer in the south of France during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, Klein studied at the École Nationale de la marine marchande, which trained officers of the French Merchant Navy, and the École nationale des langues orientales vivantes, today known as the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, where he developed his interests in literature, philosophy, and jazz. He became friends with Arman (Armand Fernandez) and Claude Pascal and finally started to paint himself. In 1947, he composed his Monotone Silence Symphony, consisting of a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence. From 1948 to 1952, he traveled in Italy, the UK, Spain, and Japan and then settled permanently in Paris in 1954-55. He was the founder of an artistic movement known as Nouveau Realisme. In 1957, he entered his époque bleue, making use of a rich shade of ultramarine that became known as International Klein Blue, to convey his sense of the infinite. The following year, he emptied the Galerie Iris Clert, repainted the walls white, and presented the emptiness of the space as a work of art in the groundbreaking conceptual exhibition The Void (La voide). Also that year, he began using nude models as "living paintbrushes," covering them in paint and instructing them to press and drag their bodies across paper and canvas -- he called these works Anthropométries. That same year, he began the decoration of the entrance hall of the new opera house in Gelsenkirchen, West Germany. In 1961, he had his first solo exhibition in the USA in New York. He and Claude Parent collaborated on the design for Les fontaines de Varsovie (Fountains of Warsaw) for the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. Shortly before he died from a heart attack at age 34, he married Rotraut Uecker, a young German artist, and appeared in the film Mondo Cane (1962). Klein’s impact on modern art grew significantly after his death and heavily influencing the performance and conceptual art movements that followed. He has been the subject of retrospectives, including Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers (2010–11) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He was the author of several published works, including Manifesto of the Monochrome, Yves Peintures (1954), and a book on judo, of which he became a master at age 25 in Japan, called Les Fondements du judo.
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