Heinrich KLEY

Karlsruhe 1863 - Munich c.1945


The noted painter, draughtsman and illustrator Heinrich Kley studied under Ferdinand Keller at the Akademie in his native city of Karlsruhe, between 1880 and 1885, before completing his studies in Munich. His earliest work is in the form of book illustrations, and already at the start of his career he displayed a particular talent as a draughtsman. Between 1888 and 1894 he exhibited at the Sezession in Munich and painted two murals for the main hall of the Imperial Post Office Building in Baden-Baden. By the turn of the century Kley was working a painter of industrial landscapes and architectural subjects, and in 1903 painted a work for the new Town Hall in Karlsruhe. In 1908 he moved to Munich and began working almost exclusively as a commercial illustrator and draughtsman, providing drawings for the seminal illustrated magazines Simplizissimus and Jugend. He developed a particular reputation for his satirical line drawings of fantastical, sometimes bizarre subject matter, and in later years some of his imagery was used as source material for book covers, magazines and posters, including in America. (Kley’s work was also a particular influence on Walt Disney’s early animated films, such as Fantasia.) As one modern writer has noted of Kley, ‘He let his art speak for him, using his inward and fertile imagination. His work touched all people…his line drawings depicting the wit, humor, satire, imagination of an all-knowing artist.’ A published collection of Kley's sketchbooks, the Sammelalbum alter und neuer Zeichnungen, was banned by the Nazis.