(Mostly about art.)

My recent posting on tweeting (in a Zippy cartoon) reminded me that I haven’t posted about Paul Klee’s drawing Die Zwitscher-Maschine:

Twittering Machine (Die Zwitscher-Maschine) is a 1922 watercolor and pen and ink oil transfer on paper by Swiss-German painter Paul Klee. Like other artworks by Klee, it blends biology and machinery, depicting a loosely sketched group of birds on a wire or branch connected to a hand-crank. Interpretations of the work vary widely: it has been perceived as a nightmarish lure for the viewer or a depiction of the helplessness of the artist, but also as a triumph of nature over mechanical pursuits. It has been seen as a visual representation of the mechanics of sound. (link)

A reproduction:

On Klee:

Paul Klee (…18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was also a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and also his musicality. (link)

Die Zwitscher-Maschine does indeed suggest music, and has been the subject of a number of compositions — for example, in Peter Maxwell Davies’s Five Klee Pictures for orchestra, op. 12 (1959/1976), where The Twittering Machine is the third section. On YouTube:


One Response to “Twittering”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Tima Vlasto on Google+ about this posting of mine:

    Loved listening to your find of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Five Klee Pictures – we must be on the same wavelength though.

    Here Vlasto cites a San Francisco Examiner piece of her own of May 17th, “Twittering Machine’: How the Twitter meme went viral”:

    Did Paul Klee knowingly or unknowingly seed the first Twitter meme – a ‘mechanical chirping bird’ in his painting Twittering Machine? In 1922, a Swiss-German painter Paul Klee painted a watercolor and pen and ink oil transfer on paper which depicted a group of birds on a wire or branch connected to a hand-crank.
    This piece of artwork was originally displayed in Germany, but was considered “degenerate art” by Hitler in 1933 and was sold by the Nazis to an art dealer in New York in 1939. Now it is at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and according to New York Magazine, in 1987 it was a popular piece to hang in children’s bedrooms

    Now she refers to a “mechanical chirping bird meme”.

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