Zentrum Paul Klee Bern Founded by Maurice E. and Martha Müller and the heirs of Paul Klee
Gentile Bellini, Sultan Mehmet II, 1480, National Gallery, London -
Gentile Bellini, Sultan Mehmet II, 1480, National Gallery, London
Image 1/
07.02.2009 - 24.05.2009

In Search of the Orient. From Bellini to Klee

This exhibition represents the opening salvo in a three-part series of exhibitions that take the Orient as their theme; the other two are Dream and Reality. Contemporary Art from the Middle East and Paul Klee. Carpet of Remembrance.

The series explores the relationship between the Occident and the Orient and their rich artistic and cultural heritages. It will also be seeking to reflect the actuality of this relationship, which is the subject of much public and media attention in the current political climate. Central to the three exhibitions are diverse artistic preoccupations concerning issues such as cultural identity and difference.

Our modern preoccupation with the historical perspectives of the topic can perhaps be explained by looking back in time: the departure point for the first exhibition is a cluster of cultural and art historical objects and artworks originating from the era when Islamic culture and science was at its zenith. Other items illustrate the relationship between East and West during the Crusades and the emergence of East-West trade, with special emphasis on Venice, a noted centre of trade and artistic accomplishment – as a highlight of this period, the exhibition is featuring Gentile Bellini’s famous «Sultan Mehmet II», painted in 1480. From the 18th century onwards, the Orient became an exotic receptacle for the West’s projected imaginations: the exhibition reveals Western art’s enthralment with the East, starting with artists such as Jean-Etienne Liotard and continuing with painters of the 19th and 20th centuries including Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Guillaumet and Henri Matisse. The fascination and attraction that the East held for European painters prepares the ground for the section of the exhibition dealing specifically with Paul Klee – and particularly with his seminal visit to Tunisia in the spring of 1914 – the journey is destined to become the centrepiece of the exhibition owing to the representational nature of the works planned for display. Klee’s paintings will be accompanied by written documents and photographs – not to mention works by Klee’s two travelling companions, August Macke and Louis Moilliet – giving fascinating insights into the impact of Arabic and Islamic culture on the trio.

The exhibition In Search of the Orient. From Bellini to Klee offers a unique opportunity to view Klee’s works in dialogue with paintings and art-historical exhibits from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

Curated in association with the Westfälisches Landsmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, Germany.