Art Exhibition Artist Ebook English

KLEE: A Contrapunctal (e) Motion

Exhibition: Rosso, Klee, Sonnier and more

Date:  Nov 9 2018 to Mar 7 2019

Venue: Hilti Art Foundation, Vaduz, Liechtenstein

Exhibition:Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Date: Nov 16, 2018 – Mar 17, 2019

Venue: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

In a collection of his writings titled The Thinking Eye, Paul Klee once asked his readers to take a “little journey” with him to “the land of Better Understanding.” He was speaking of the technical aspects of art, but the same invitation can be made at the outset of this brief profile of the artist.

The Swiss-born Paul Klee (1879-1940) was one of the most inventive, witty, and imaginative of all artists. He was a master of fantasy, offering thousands of small but impressive works that consistently presented subtle wit and profound insight. His work is rarely mistaken for that of any other artist, yet – unlike many artists who find their niche then repeatedly visit it – each of his paintings has its own identity. He adroitly plays with the viewer’s senses, making his art ambiguous, yet nearly always understated. A major influence on the evolution of modern art, even as modern art in Germany was officially condemned, Klee did not subscribe entirely to any of the many movements of his day.

Paul Klee in 1911
Versunkene Landschaft (Engulfed Landscape) 1918
Watercolour, gouache and ink on paper on cardboard,
top and bottom borders in satiny paper, 17.6 x 16.3 cm.
Museum Folkwang, Essen.

Klee (pronounced as ‘clay’) was born in Münchenbuchsee, near Bern, Switzerland, on 18 December, 1879. His father, Hans, was German and a music teacher at the teacher training college at Bern-Hofwyl. Paul’s mother, Ida Marie, received her music education in Stuttgart. His paternal great-grandfather was an organist in Thuringia. His most famous drawing from his earliest childhood is With the Hare, done at age five. While he was young, he also drew “devils”, which he felt “acquired real presence.” Early in his diaries he remembers how the devilish figures frightened him so much that he would run to his parents for comfort.

Villa R, 1919
Oil on wood, 26.5 x 22 cm.
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung (1936), Kunstmuseum, Basel.
Winter Day Just Before Noon, 1922.
Oil on paper on cardboard, 29.8 x 45.9 cm.
Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen.

However, the first signs of young Paul Klee’s artistic temperament were expressed not in visual art, but in music. The family supported the young man’s efforts to master the violin, which he played from age seven in 1886 until he was forced by poor health to give up playing in 1935. Like the great Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), he would play violin for an hour before each painting session. He likewise drew every day, as did Picasso and Matisse. He played violin in chamber groups and in the local municipal orchestra even while he was still in school. However, the group was admittedly unpolished. Pablo Casals (1886-1973), the great Spanish cellist, heard the orchestra play in January, 1905. Afterwards he was reported to have said, in French, that it would be “terrible” to play with the orchestra.

Fertility Well-Ordered (Recto of the Painted Leaf), 1933.
Watercolour on paper on cardboard, 19.7 x 26 cm.
Private collection.

Even though Klee had a fine musical background, in 1898, at age twenty, he decided to study art, not music, at the Munich Academy. However, throughout his life, music was essential. He was also a music critic for publications. In his diary, Klee often documented opinions on the concerts or operas he attended during his travels in Italy, France, and Germany. Around 1925, while at the Dessau Bauhaus, Klee met the composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963). The artist apparently befriended the young composer and liked his chamber music. By then Hindemith had written a piano concerto and several songs, as well as over twenty major works for strings, including three of his six works titled Chamber Music.

Paul-klee-Where
Where? 1920
Oil and pencil on paper on cardboard, 23.5 x 29.5 cm.
Collezione Città di Locarno, Pinacoteca Casa Rusca, Locarno.
Paul-Klee-Railway-Station-L112-14 km
Railway Station L112, 14 km, 1920
Watercolour and Indian ink on paper on cardboard, 12.3 x 21.8 cm.
Hermann and Margrit Rupf Foundation, Kunstmuseum, Bern.

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