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05.11.2005 - 27.11.2005


Paul Klee and his illness

Exhibition by the medical faculty of the University of Bern. The medical faculty of the University of Bern is celebrating its 200th anniversary in this, the opening year of the Zentrum Paul Klee. Klee’s illness, scleroderma, had a marked effect on his late work.

In 1935 Paul Klee (1879–1940) succumbed to a mystery disease that affected his skin and inner organs. It was only fourteen years after his death that scleroderma was first discussed in the pages of medical journals. It could never be verified that Klee had the disease, though, as there were insufficient medical records from which to form a diagnosis.

Remarkably, Paul Klee was able to channel his suffering into his creative output. No one can fail but to be impressed by what he achieved during those last five years of illness: an all-encompassing oeuvre far removed from his earlier works, in which destiny and suffering feature heavily. Using pencil and pen, he put on record, as if in a diary, his condition, his distress, his fear, but also his confidence and his hope – this he did by means of numerous outlined drawings. It is striking that the artist in the midst of his pain was able, time and again, to weave touches of humour into his intensively coloured paintings.