In 1914 Klee refered to his own sensibility as a "cool romanticism", applying a modern twist to the ideas of Jean Paul, Novalis and Eichendorff, German poets who flourished at the turn of the century. Klee shared their longing for the infinite and an inward communion with nature.
"Even the infectious playfulness of Klee's work is an out-and-out romantic trait. His talent for discovering new means of expression was not merely an end in itself. His constant play with new forms and his startling technical experiments were a deliberate way of avoiding rigidity and overly flat statements and of creating ambiguity. In short, like all romantics, what he sought even in his forms was a
ceaseless, playful activity and expansion of the mind and not the realization of an ideal in the classical sense of physical perfection." (J. Glaesemer, "Klee and German Romanticism," Paul Klee, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 69).
The figure is central to Klee's pictorial universe, and in his playful manner it is natural that he should take to caricature as means of cooly reflecting on the foibles of the human character. Klee's figures often seem like marionettes, and express the artist's fatalistic vision that humans are helpless before a higher cosmic power.
"Even in his use of pictorial means, Klee was shifting his glance in opposite directions. Color for him tends to represent the "abstract", otherworldly side of his vision, whereas drawing is the means of coming to terms with the anecdotal, all-too-human lower levels of this world." (Ibid., pp. 74-75).