Sunday, 19 January 2014

Paul Klee – Making Visible

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.   —— Paul Klee

A major exhibit of the German painter Paul Klee is underway at London’s Tate Modern. Some 130 drawings, watercolors and oil paintings gathered from around the world are displayed chronologically.

Fig.1 Paul Klee (1879–1940), Comedy, 1921,
watercolour and oil on paper,
support: 305 x 454 mm on paper, unique, Tate. Purchased 1946
The exhibit begins with works from the 1920s when Klee made major advances in his technique. Comedy (1921 Fig.1) employs the oil-transfer method that Klee invented. The artist first makes a drawing by pencil or pen, then places that on a paper covered with black paint and traces the lines of the drawing with a needle, thus transferring the original drawing over. The resulting lines on the oil with their occasional smudges exude a unique atmosphere. Smears from the brush of a hand during the transfer leave fading marks of fleeting nature. Klee did not add color to his initial works using the oil transfer technique but later began layering watercolor on them, and eventually identified himself with such works by saying, “color and I are one.” Fire at Full Moon (1933 Fig 2) is an impressive piece that captures the yellow of the brilliant full moon of an evening with the red of flames burning up from the ground. The power of color is illustrated from a simple structure. Klee used many other techniques such as bold gradations of colors and dots for his numerous other works.

Fig.2 Paul Klee (1879–1940), Fire at Full Moon, 1933,
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Klee has been described as a lonely dreamer due to his emotionally rich work, but at the same time he was also a brilliant theorist. He authored a book on color theory, and when teaching at the Bauhaus on shape and color, he kept detailed notes. From 1921 he amassed an enormous catalogue that lists some 9,600 of his works. The pieces are classified meticulously by theme, along with a number, title and meticulous notes on the creative process. During his lifetime, Klee had studios in Munich, Weimar, Dessau, Dusseldorf and Bern. In each place he put up his works on the wall leaving no spaces between them and photographed the display. The current exhibit hopes to present Klee’s works in a manner true to the artist’s intentions while discerning the creative processes from his catalogue and photos.

Paul Klee – Making Visible runs through March 9, 2014. (Open everyday.)

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom
Opening times:
Sunday to Thursday: 10:00-18:00、Friday and Saturday: 10:00-22:00