The careful use of colours is one of Paul Klee’s trademarks, and it is well depicted in Sinbad the Sailor. There are seamless colour combinations from the sea creatures to the main subject to the vessel.
The different shades of blue provide a subtle contrast between the sea and the sky with a curve dividing the two. Another dominant trait in Klee's work that is present in this piece is the childlike rendering of most of his paintings.
It adds a certain uniqueness and effortless simplicity to the piece. The person and the fish are created with similar patterns.
The title of the piece, Sinbad the Sailor provides a point of reference to work with. Sinbad is a fictional character in the Arabian story of “a Thousand and One Knights”.
Done around 1928, this painting is believed to be a portrayal of one of Sinbad’s voyages. In the story, Sinbad is a poor person who is bored with his life until he gets the chance to go on a sea voyage.
In total, Sinbad goes on seven voyages that come with their fair share of adventures. It is in the third voyage that sea monsters attack and Sinbad has to battle them. Apparently, the painting is based off a battle scene in the 1923 comic-fantastic opera, Seafarer.
Klee is renowned for using symbols originating from the unconscious, and Sinbad the Sailor is no exception. It tells a story that is almost dreamlike. By using abstraction, Paul Klee takes a battle scene that is imagined to be gory and adds a playfulness to it.
Bright colours, a dark background and unusual geometrical patterns are used to unify the central characters in the painting. Klee referred to the irregular rectangles used in the background as magic squares.
Pieces that could be said to tell a similar story, although different in style are the Great Wave and Breezing Up by Winslow Homer.