Exhibition room - © M. Stollenwerk
Exhibition room
© M. Stollenwerk
Image 1/
19.09.2009 – 24.05.2010

Paul Klee. Life, Work and Responses

Paul Klee’s body of work is a biography in pictorial form – even if many of his communications are coded and raise more questions than they answer. On closer examination, however, what becomes clear is the large extent to which Klee’s oeuvre is imbued with his character, his life circumstances and his environment.

His works demonstrate his fondness for the satirical and the grotesque, but also his need for success and respect. They give an account of his family, his travelling and his ambivalence towards politics and world affairs. Not least, they tell us about his artistic experiments involving Expressionism and Constructivism, the Bauhaus and Picasso.

Klee, ever the individualist, always made efforts to assert himself and preserve his personal perspective on art in the headwind of the zeitgeist. Klee was a refractory artist, who armed himself with irony and keen powers of observation against his environment and integrated biting commentary into his pictures. He was a philosopher, but he was also punctilious and a strategist, and, for all his spirituality, he kept a strict eye on his public career. 

The latest selection of works by Klee – on show at the zentrum Paul Klee from September 2009 to May 2010 – places Klee’s biography firmly in the spotlight. The new presentation includes fourteen new thematic areas spanning a variety of touchpoints in Klee’s life and work, from his early creative stirrings around 1900 to his last works in 1940. Early portraits of his family will be on display, as will his later recollections of people and episodes in his life. Escorting Klee’s works will be some by his artist-friends Marc, Kandinsky and Kubin; the presentation also charts his responses to the First World War and National Socialism.

The selection of around 150 works by Klee will be accompanied by a sequence of 30 or so small display windows detailing his life history. Each of these biographical displays – bearing titles such as «Klee at School», «The 50th Birthday», «Ill Health and Death» – will contain photographs, personal requisites, letters, books and quotes illustrating important stages in his life. The documentation, however, will take the visitor far beyond Klee’s actual life span, demonstrating how Klee’s personality and oeuvre continue to resonate to this day, drawing crowds of visitors and inspiring countless artists, musicians, writers and creators of every kind and description. The new presentation will include three lounges where visitors can relax as they pursue their study of Klee – an «audiotheque» (music), a «videotheque» (the moving image) and a «bibliotheque» (reading material).

Taken from the Zentrum Paul Klee’s extensive archive, this comprehensive display of documentary material is being shown here for the first time. It contains all manner of items related to Paul Klee – historical documents from the artist's lifetime, actual music compositions and creations for museum shops. The Zentrum Paul Klee’s archive is the product of many years of collecting.

We have the Klee Family to thank for much of it. Felix Klee, the son of Paul and Lily Klee-Stumpf, preserved the mementos he inherited from his parents for decades, and many of these now form part of the archive. Following his death in 1990, his inheritors – Felix’s second wife Livia Klee-Meyer and his son from his first marriage, Alexander Klee – decided to donate the remaining portion of the family archive to the Zentrum Paul Klee. It means the Zentrum is now in a position to provide an even fuller, more vivid picture of the life story of this seminal artist. The Zentrum has been promised more material, such as that from the Bürgi family archive. Visitors will be able to see and hear Felix Klee in some of the films and recordings being made available. It is to him that the exhibition Paul Klee – Life, Work and Responses is dedicated.