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Hot-Blooded Girl

Thomas B. Cole, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2013;309(15):1562. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1593.
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The Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879-1940) once said that the subject of abstract art is the reality behind visible things. Klee brought clarity to this hidden world by designing his compositions to be fundamental and forthright. He envisioned the bare bones of reality after the extraneous detail has melted away and only the essential elements remain. Consequently, his images are deceptively simple, such as the nude figure in Hot-Blooded Girl (cover). In this painting, Klee uses just a few shapes of color bounded with coarse dark lines to present his subject in the full bloom of her youth and vitality, from the curl in her hair to the blush on her bosom and cheek. The lighter part of the girl's face is nudged forward into the picture plane by a strip of dark background—a modern demonstration of the Rembrandt effect—drawing attention to her expression of concern. Something is bothering her: a hand that appears just over her right shoulder, its fingers contracted in a painful clench.

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Paul Klee (1879-1940), Hot-Blooded Girl, 1938, Swiss. Oil on Masonite. 31.9 × 24.8 cm. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Art Museum (http://mam.org/), Milwaukee, Wisconsin; gift of Mrs Harry Lynde Bradley, M1966.155. Photo credit: Larry Sanders. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, New York.

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