For me the most interesting part of Klee’s life started when he met Kandinsky, Jawlensky, Macke and Marc in 1911 and was included in the second avant-garde Blue Rider exhibition 1912. He was formally invited by Kandinsky to join the Blue Rider group in that same year.
The next big revelation occurred when Klee visited Paris, meeting Delaunay and his Cubist pictures. Within a couple of years, Klee travelled to Tunis and Kairouan with Moilliet and Macke where his interest in colour was becoming evident.
Head with a German Moustache
The EY Exhibition – Paul Klee Making Visible was on at the Tate Modern in London till March 2014. The history for this post came directly from the Tate Modern’s press release.
I would have liked the Tate Modern’s exhibition to include paintings from the Blue Rider and the pre-war Tunis era. But the exhibition began with the post-WW1 era, when he first developed his individual abstract patchworks of colour. The many technical innovations that followed were displayed throughout the exhibition, including oil transfer paintings (They’re Biting 1920 see below), dynamic colour gradations (Suspended Fruit 1921) and multicoloured pointillism (Memory of a Bird 1932).
Being a Bauhaus fan, I was delighted when Klee moved to Weimar in 1921 to teach at the Bauhaus, then moved again with the Bauhaus when they opened up plush new facilities in Dessau in 1926. Klee worked with great rigour; he inscribed numbers on his works in accordance with a personal cataloguing system and wrote volumes on colour theory and detailed lecture notes. The abstract canvases he produced at Bauhaus, such as the rhythmical composition Fire in the Evening (1929 see below), took his reputation to new international heights. This king of European modernism shared the throne only with Matisse and Picasso.
This was the UK’s first large-scale Klee exhibition for over a decade. Challenging his reputation as a solitary dreamer, the exhibition revealed the innovation and rigour with which he created his work and presented it to the public. Bringing together over 130 colourful works from collections around the world, the Paul Klee exhibition spanned the three decades of his career: from WW1, his years of teaching at the Bauhaus, up to his final quite radical paintings made in Bern until the outbreak of war in 1939. The show reunited important works which the artist created, catalogued or exhibited together at these key moments in his life. By showing these delicate works alongside each other, it was a unique chance to explore his innovations and ideas.
Fire in the Evening
Klee left more than 10,000 astoundingly diverse works at his death. Let me cite The Observer. Klee was the Buddha of the Bauhaus, imagining the afterlife as a pale paradise floating in a universe of tremulous lines and finding the divine in every dragonfly and acorn. He was Klee the modernist, overriding the paradox of depiction – how to represent three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface – by showing the world as if viewed from above and yet also within, as idiosyncratic incidents and structures adrift in a haze of pure colour. There was Klee the innovator and Klee the genius cartoonist, deflator of pomp, mocker of tin-pot tyrants and inventor of that scratchy pictographic style.
The exhibition was fortunately accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue by Tate Publishing (October 2013) which I warmly recommend.
A special exhibition called Les Klee du paradis - Paul Klee in the Collections of the Nationalgalerie will continue until the end of August 2014 at the National Gallery of Berlin. The idea of presenting this exhibition originated from art dealer-collector Heinz Berggruen who died in 2007. Paul Klee was one the collector's favourite artists. Represented by 70 works in the collection, he stands as one of the main protagonists of the Museum Berggruen. And Dieter Scharf (died in 2001) was also an avid collector of the artist's works. As a result, the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg that he built up now includes 30+ works by Paul Klee. The two collectors specialised in different parts of Klee's career - Heinz Berggruen mainly acquired works dating from Klee's time as a teacher at the Bauhaus, while Dieter Scharf was particularly drawn to Klee's early, Symbolist-inspired works. See these two significant collections at the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, part of the National Gallery of Berlin.