Paul Klee is a giant of the 20th century, whose name is often cited in the same breath as Picasso or Matisse, making the exhibition opening at Tate Modern tomorrow an event not to be missed. During his lifetime, Paul Klee had kept a handwritten catalogue, assigning a year and number to each work. It enabled him to order and group his artworks. Today, and thanks to this method, the various pieces have been reunited from all over the world and displayed alongside each other as the artist originally intended, often for the first time since Klee exhibited them himself.
Immensely influential, Paul Klee resists easy classification despite his taking part in major movements, making a survey of his work even more interesting. In 1911, Klee was introduced to Wassily Kandinsky and joined the Expressionist artists’ group Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider). In 1912 he met Picasso, Matisse and Braque in Paris. Robert Delaunay’s theory of contrasting colour might have been of a greater influence on the artist. A two-week trip to Tunisia is considered however as his breakthrough into colour.
The core of the exhibition focuses on the decade Klee spent at the Bauhaus where he worked and taught, creating along the way the abstract paintings that ensured his international reputation. Being labelled ‘degenerate artist’ by the Nazis did not prevent Klee from being prolific throughout the 1930’s.
The exhibition is an opportunity to see how inventive Klee was in his methods and technique. One of the techniques devised by the artist is the oil transfer that creates elegant lines without taking out any of the work intensity; another is the gradation that he taught to his pupils before developing a form of pointillism.
The works are all of a small scale, which is a refreshing reminder that bigger is not always better. Klee’s pieces are at the paramount of intensity and balance. It is worth going to the exhibition just to be inexorably drawn to a painting to realise that it is appropriately part of the ‘magic squares’ series.
The EY Exhibition – Paul Klee: Making Visible, Tate Modern, London through March 9th, 2014