Throughout his entire life, Paul Klee was inspired by music: he was an accomplished violinist, an enthusiastic opera and concert-lover and an acerbic music critic. For a long time he was undecided whether to become a painter or a musician. In his diary he called music his «lover», while painting was his «brush goddess reeking of oil, whom I only embrace because, well, she is my wife».
There is a musical orientation in the compositional, rhythmic and melodic aspects of many of Klee's works; the theory behind some of his oeuvre and his teachings is quite directly related to musical and sound elements; and some of his works can well be freely interpreted as «scores».
The exhibition Paul Klee. Melody and Rhythm focuses on Klee's passion for music and the way in which he addressed musicality. It brings together various pieces in which Klee achieved the structural or thematic expression of musical aspects. Complemented by works from other museums and private collections, the focal point of the exhibition is provided by pieces from the collection of Zentrum Paul Klee related to various important aspects of the overarching theme. The exhibition is further enhanced by documents from Klee's time as a Bauhaus teacher – small works of art in their own right – which provide insights into Klee's views on the subject.
In Klee's visual art the aspect of melody expresses itself in the line, which – particularly in his drawings – acquires its very own «musicality». The aspect of rhythm addresses structural analogies between visual and musical representations of rhythmic sequences (i.e., two-beat, three-beat, six-beat, etc., metres and overlapping fields of pattern and colour). Klee's concern with «musical» compositions climaxes in «harmonious, polyphonous» visual structures. The painterly equivalent of sound as an expression of musical tonality manifests itself in the intuitive expressiveness and emotionality of his colours.
Klee's works repeatedly refer to his much-loved operas – in particular well-known characters from operas by Mozart, Rossini and Verdi – and a wide range of musicians, orchestras and musical instruments, i.e. strings as well as wind and percussive instruments.
The exhibition's documentary section draws on the extensive archives of Zentrum Paul Klee to illustrate Klee's life as a practicing musician and avid music-lover, and provides insights into Klee's reflections on music history.
The exhibition is accompanied by a generously illustrated catalogue published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, with new contributions by various authors on «Paul Klee and Music».