Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, into a musical family. He studied art in Munich with Heinrich Knirr and Franz von Stuck. After travelling to Italy and then back to Bern, he settled in Munich, where he met Vasily Kandinsky, Hans Marc and other avant-garde figures, and became associated with the Blaue Reiter.
In 1914, he visited Tunisia and was impressed by the quality of the light there, writing "Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever ... Color and I are one. I am a painter."
Klee worked in oil paint, watercolours, ink and other media, often combining them in one work. He has been variously associated with expressionism, cubism and surrealism but his pictures are difficult to classify. They often have a fragile child-like quality to them, and are usually on a small scale. They frequently allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes include words or musical notation. The later works are distinguished by spidery hieroglyph-like symbols. His better known works include Southern (Tunisian) Gardens (1919), Ad Parnassum (1932) and Embrace (1939).
In 1933, Paul Klee returned to Switzerland where he died in Bern.
Today, a painting by Paul Klee can sell for as much as US$7.5 million.