Paul Klee (1879-1940): a personal view of the Tate Modern exhibition

Image ©Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Image ©Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Paul Klee is an artist who contributed to the opening of my own eyes, helping me to see and “think”, when I was a fine art student in the 1970s. His writing influenced and enlivened my drawing, his watercolour paintings gave me confidence as my watercolours at the time were small and quite decorative. I still paint in watercolour, sometimes on a large or very small scale.

The thinking eye and The nature of nature are two volumes comprising his art and writings. WSA Library holds a large number of books on Klee including these writings, some were connected to his teaching at the now legendary Bauhaus. Authors and critics have sometimes looked at his work through specific themes, for example different motifs, such as angels and the garden. Even the puppets made for his son Felix have appeared in book form.

I would always go to see his work and had the opportunity to see it in Munich, Germany on a study trip in the 1990s. At a later date I saw “Paul Klee: the nature of creation, works 1914-1940” which took place at the Hayward Gallery in 2002. I have just been to see the new exhibition at Tate Modern in London, on now until 9 March 2014.

The Guardian art critic, Adrian Searle, has recently written a positive exhibition review which you can find in The Guardian  dated 15 October 2013. However he does point out that this is a big show with many rooms perhaps not the best way to see the work of Paul Klee. There are drawings and paintings grouped chronologically according to Klee’s own cataloguing system.  Klee painted on all sorts of surfaces including canvas, cardboard, burlap, linen, muslin and paper. Klee himself said he discovered colour on a trip to Tunisia in 1914 which resulted in a series of beautifully coloured works. His work with colour also appears in a number of paintings composed of coloured squares throughout his life as an artist.

At the Tate exhibition I like the space around the works and the light is fine although of course daylight would be better. However the Tate is rather cavernous, corporate and too busy for his work but this is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the thinking eye of Paul Klee.

Linda Newington

Head of Library and Archive Collections for Art and Design