Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a German painter of Swiss origin, who had the uncanny ability of venturing into diverse styles, ‘Cubism,’ ‘Orientalism,’ ‘Expressionism,’ and ‘Surrealism,’ yet maintaining the singularity of his art. His body of work was remarkable for its ‘dry humor’ and childish streaks, which more or less represented his personal vision of the world. Despite his art being flaked by the critics and Swiss Authorities, it found a lot of popularity in the wider circles of common masses. One of the Klee’s best-known works is “The Twittering Machine.” Currently, a part of the Museum of Modern Art in the New York City, it is a work of oil transfer sketch on paper base with ink, watercolors, and gouache on a 25.25″ X 19″ frame.
Paul’s “The Twittering Machine” is an overly simplistic design that appears somewhat sketchy. Paul has tried to present a blend of Nature’s spirit with the essence of industrialization. It features four birds sitting on their roost, connected to a hand crank (mechanical arm, joined to an engine or shaft), against a commingled background of blue and pink. The blue color signifies night and the pink color is a harbinger of approaching sunlight with the break of dawn. The singing birds, contextually ‘twittering,’ seem to be proclaiming and welcoming the daybreak after a night of darkness and uncertainty. The birds are not represented in their full rounded natural forms, rather in wire-like structures ‘Symbolically.’ The entire setup of birds with their roost is placed over an open pit, where they sing enthusiastically to lure their prey into the pit. This complex portrayal is used as an allegory for the manner in which industrialization uses its bait (the twittering birds) to attract unwitting victims (common people) into its grave-like chasm (fall-outs of industrialization). In the same reference, the crank looks like a ‘lever’ of a music box, illustrating the driving force behind the birds, which propels them to sing. “The Twittering Machine” is a masterwork that mocks the idea of trying to create something better than Nature, in the very face of it.
In this arresting piece, “The Twittering Machine,” an incoherently sarcastic technical looking drawing, in reality is a brilliant embodiment of the cacophony of the modern life, under the guise of industrialization and machination. Paul Klee expressed his penchant for sarcasm on the hypocrisies inherent in the contemporary world, when he remarked that, ‘Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.’