Friday, 6 May 2016

Paul Klee: Irony at Work

Fig.1 PAUL KLEE, Insula dulcamara, 1938, oil and colour glue paint on paper on hessian canvas, 88 x 176 cm, Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne

The largest retrospective since 1969 of Paul Klee is underway at the Centre Pompidou in France. Featuring some 250 important works, the exhibit casts a new light on the art and character of Klee through the theme of irony (fig 1).

Fig.2 PAUL KLEE, Der Held mit dem Flügel, 
Le Héros à l’aile, 1905, Etching, 25,7 x 16 cm,
Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne
The Concept of Irony
After studying at the art academy in Munich, Klee traveled to Italy. Viewing the perfected beauty of classical Greek art and the Renaissance, Klee concluded that if he pursued classical idealism, he would only be mimicking the past. Klee searched for his own, new means of expression and came upon the concept of “irony,” promoted by the philosopher of early German Romanticism, Friedrich Schlegel. Klee perceived irony as a new means for him to simultaneously express high ideals and criticism. “I served beauty by drawing her enemies (caricature, satire),” he wrote in his journal.

Can Man Fly?
The Hero with the Wing (fig. 2) depicts a sturdy man growing just one wing from his shoulder. Perhaps from numerous failed attempts to fly, his body is covered with wounds. Klee created this work two years after the Wright brothers succeeded in the world’s first manned flight. Klee was skeptical about people flying and expressed his sarcasm in this piece.
Behind the Poetic Works
The narrative power and poetic sentiment of Klee’s colors have always been cited as having a major role in the appeal of his paintings. But another layer of depth can be felt in his works by examining them from the viewpoint of irony.

Paul Klee: Irony at Work until August 1 (Museum is closed on Tuesdays).
Centre Pompidou
19 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris
Opening times:
11:00-23:00  Closed on Tuesday