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Artists and friends who changed the course of art history

Paul Klee's "Vor den Toren von Kairuan", 1914.

(Museum Morandi Bologna)

A new exhibition in Berne highlights a turning point in the history of modern art, when colour became of primary importance. Entitled "The Harmony of Colour" it focuses on a group of artists who pioneered the new approach.

The exhibition, at Berne's Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts), is subtitled "Paul Klee, August Macke and their painter friends". Klee, who was born near Berne in 1879, met the German-born Macke shortly before the First World War.

They became part of a circle of friends which included Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Alexej Jawlensky and Louis Moilliet - all of whom became highly influential artists, and whose paintings are also being exhibited at the Kunstmuseum.

The exhibition centres on the relationship between Klee and Macke, and particularly on a voyage of artistic discovery they made during a short holiday with Moilliet in Tunisia in 1914.

"Before the trip," says Anita Geiser of the Kunstmuseum, "Klee had regarded himself as simply a draftsman. In Tunisia he became intoxicated with the wealth of colour and the intensity of light, and found what he had been looking for. He said 'Colour and I are one', and later wrote in his diary 'Colour has caught me...I am a painter.' It was a turning point in his career."

Macke had already worked intensively with colour, as can be seen in his work exhibited in Berne, and must have been an ideal travelling companion for Klee in Tunisia.

The exhibition shows the highpoint of Macke's brief career. It came to a tragic end less than six months after the Tunisian holiday, when he was killed in action - aged 27 - only weeks after the outbreak of war.

by Richard Dawson

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