Exhibition bids farewell to Klee collection

Klee painted this canvas "Uebermut" in 1939, a year before his death Keystone

Bern's fine arts museum is staging the last major exhibition of its works by Paul Klee before they are moved to their new home on the outskirts of the city.

This content was published on February 15, 2002 - 10:41

The Kunstmuseum has built up a collection of Klee's paintings and sculptures for more than 50 years. Not only is it the most comprehensive in the world, it's also unique in terms of quality - and a great source of pride to Bern. Klee was born just outside the city and lived there for most of his life.

But this is a farewell appearance in the Kunstmuseum for many of the collection's finest examples, which from 2005 will be housed along with all the other works in the future Paul Klee Centre. It also provides the public with a rare opportunity to view paintings loaned from private collectors.

The exhibition is a comprehensive look at the artistic life of one of the most original and influential figures in modern art, from his early watercolours as a teenager to the huge canvases, rich in colour, that he completed not long before his death in 1940 at the age of 60. It traces the development of an artist who never stopped developing.

Bauhaus teacher

"All his life he experimented as an artist," says curator Christine Hopfengart. "Klee never had one style, because he was always working in different styles and with different kinds of artistic expression."

Hopfengart added that this "pluralism" is the abiding characteristic of his whole work, especially in the 1920s during his period as a teacher at the Bauhaus in Germany.

Visitors - and many are expected from as far afield as the United States and Japan - will find it difficult to choose favourite sections of an exhibition reflecting so many facets of an artist's work in such an interesting way.

Hand puppets

There is even a room devoted to hand puppets made by Klee for his son Felix. They are unmistakably his work - he made about 50 of them - and can be seen alongside his paintings of the puppets.

During the final years of his life, aware that he was dying, Klee was busier than ever at his art. "We can see many different and surprising traits in his later work," said Hopfengart. "

The sizes of the paintings are much greater than before, he became preoccupied with classical themes and his productivity was huge. In 1939 he painted more than 1,200 works, and that was more than during any other year of his life."

The exhibition, at the Kunstmuseum until August 1, will be followed by a smaller one next year on the theme of Klee in 1933 and his reaction to Nazi Germany.

by Richard Dawson

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