Swiss-born artist Paul Klee (1879–1940) created some of the most innovative and best-loved works of the twentieth century, in media including etching, drawing, ink, pastel, oil paint and watercolour. Uniquely among his contemporaries, he combined the machine aesthetic of modernism with lyrical, organic elements, arriving at a visual language entirely his own. After his training in Munich, in 1911 he became involved with the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Klee and Kandinsky became lifelong friends, and the support of the older painter provided much-needed encouragement. His work was also influenced by the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstract translucent colour planes of Robert Delaunay. Although he moved freely between media and from figuration to abstraction, Klee’s works remain instantly recognisable, often characterised by a playfulness and wit that can sharpen to biting satire on occasion.
Accompanying a major retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern, this book surveys Klee’s entire career, particularly his role as recordkeeper of his work and the way this influenced the way his work was then exhibited. Featuring his best-known paintings reproduced in their full colourful complexity, the book focuses on Klee’s major exhibitions during his lifetime, with essays by leading authorities from the US, the UK, and Switzerland placing his output in the context of the period in which he lived, revealing an anxious artist who, despite his quirky lyricism, was troubled by the challenges of the modern world.
Matthew Gale is Head of Displays and Curator at Tate Modern, and editor of Joan Miró: The Ladder of Escape, and Francis Bacon.
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