PAUL KLEE, EXHIBITION TATE MODERN
16TH OCTOBER 2013-9TH MARCH 2014 BANKSIDE LONDON
REVIEWER: LAURENCE HUMPHRIES
Paul Klee was an important German abstract artist who lived through Revolutionary developments in Germany. Born in 1879 he saw the advent of the German Revolution as well as the inter war years and the rise of Fascism in Germany. He was a colleague of Wassily Kandinsky the Great Russian abstractionist. They both worked in the Bauhaus and were both active in the Der Blaue Reiter movement in Germany.
Klee’s aim in his art was to make ‘visible the invisible’ He used many mediums particularly, Gouache pencil and water colours. He was interested in Colour and Line. He advocated the use of colour using different aspects and making his art translucent with many oranges and Blue’s.
In 1914 he travelled to Tunisia and was enraptured with the possibilities , travelling with Franc Marc and others it is in this period that Klee begins to master colour using delicate watercolours he represents Tunisian Holy cities. The First World War of 1914-1918 greatly affects Klee and the use of abstraction is a means of showing what he feels “Klee becomes increasingly productive seeing abstraction as a means to disassociate himself from the World at War , The more abstract the art the more horrible this World , he writes “ .
Revolution occurs in Germany when the German Fleet mutinies reminiscent of the Russian Revolution of 1917. “Mutinies in the German fleet lead to a Revolution, echoing the Russian Revolution of 1917” . In 1919 there is an uprising led by the Spartacists under the Leadership of Rosa Luxembourg, Wilhelm Liebknecht and Franz Mehring. “Spartacist uprising in Berlin, in April, a Bavarian Soviet republic is briefly established and Klee joins its action committee of Revolutionary artists. Within weeks the Republic is overthrown”. . The German Social democratic Party betrays the Revolution and Leaders like Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky betray the heritage of Marx and Engels and side with the Imperialists during the Horrific war that follows.
Klee escapes to Switzerland where he begins to experiment with Watercolour, gouache ink and Graphite. His watercolour on chalked and primed Linen Rembrancre Sheet 1918 is a classic example of what he thinks of the war.
Other works are His Friendly place 1919, showing aerial combat and the beginning of His Oil Transfer works using watercolours to transfer line and drawing. In Switzerland Klee meets Hans Arp Tristan Tzara and other members of the Anti-dada Group. “Klee develops the ‘Oil Transfer method of reproduced drawings or particular details by tracing them over a sheet of painted paper”. .
Klee is now a teacher at the Bauhaus. In 1923 Klee holds his exhibition exhibiting works like Static-Germany gradation 1923 and Assyrian Games 1923.
Klee had shown in 1918 his sympathies for the short lived Soviet republic “That part of us which somehow aims for eternal values would better able to receive support in a communist Community” .
Klee continues to represent his different paintings using the Oil transfer method and his use of geometric shapes demonstrating his master of Line, Colour and Shape and totally in control of how the picture plane should be represented. Other mediums that Klee used were Cardboard and using watercolours with China ink.
His Overture series of paintings where he uses paint pen and ink where he represents the picture of Peace and an end to War and Militarism. From 1923 Klee starts to use Lettering in his images searching for that elusive space involving colour and line which he wanted to show his inner feelings and emotions.
The use of Diagonals and squares and triangles becomes a common trademark of Klee’s work. It is abstract pointillism. Klee’s use of Rectangular shapes which are dubbed magic squares can be compared to Mohology-Nagys great geometrical constructiveness. “Yet the investigation of appearances should not be underestimated”. .
In 1933 fleeing from Nazi Germany Klee went to Switzerland and eventually took up Swizz citenship. In his mural of 1924 Klee started using Tempera in his pictures using different shades of colour and a repetitive line of xs. “The picture with its shades of purple, green and yellow appears very dark. It is covered with X’s and seems to be divided into a mass of small squares without however there always being a contrast of colour between them”. .
Klee had a tendency to apply a subjective idealist method to his art. He was influenced by Ernst Mach who Lenin refers to in Volume 14 as an Empirical critic. Mach rejects the external world by constructing a reality made up of sensations. This was a return to Berkeley and his Idealism rejecting the fact that the External world is a reflection of material objects and that is the true source of Knowledge. Klee’s reliance on Mach is a weakness but in his art of representing his ideas Klee was trying to make the Invisible Visible. “He succeeded in combing geometrical shapes objective representation, negation of Artistic style.” “Klee used a spray technique whereby he covered part of the paper with a Stencil and sprayed the free places with watercolours” .
During the 1930’s Klee continual strove to oppose Fascist Social realist art with his abstractions signifying his Ant-Fascist Art. Revolt of the Viaduct 1937 “This picture with all its menace is a declaration of war on the Nazis who if they been unable to impose complete artistic conformity had at least successfully suppressed all individual art”. .
Revolutions of the Viaduct 1937.
Paul Klee was a Great revolutionary artist who in his use of abstraction and by using watercolours, graphite, and pencil drawing used line and shape to create art of Revolutionary implications. His participation in the short-lived Republic shows his credentials as a Revolutionary Communist. I will leave you with Klee’s comment on his involvement in his fight for communism and his total opposition to Fascism and Barbarism “Right from the Beginning it seemed that this communist republic would be short-lived, but it did give us the opportunity of checking our subjective in such a community” .
1) Tate Modern Booklet Paul Klee
2) Tate Modern Booklet Paul Klee
3) Ditto Ditto
4) Statement By Paul Klee Tate Modern
5) Ditto Ditto
6) Ditto Ditto
7) Partsch.S Klee Taschen Germany. Pg.55
8) Ditto Ditto pg.60
9) Ditto Ditto pg. 60
10) Ditto Ditto pg.92
11) Statement by Paul Klee Tate Modern.