Exhibition: Paul Klee. About Technical Frenzy | Zentrum Paul Klee
Apparatuses - machines - acceleration: in the early years of the 20th century the world was heading into a new, mechanised age that placed big challenges on society. We feel the consequences - both good and bad - still today. The 55th exhibition at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Paul Klee. About Technical Frenzy, which will be shown from 3 September 2022 until 21 May 2023, reveals for the first time Paul Klee’s artistic engagement with the technical achievements of his time.
Progress v. burnout
Paul Klee lived - as we do today - in an age of major technological transformations. The technical progress that shaped the turn of the 20th century, brought about an industrial revolution and marked the beginning of the modern age, changed society from the ground up. X-rays, microscopes, telephones, cars and electricity questioned people's perception of matter, space and time and dissolved the familiar image of the world. At the same time, with the end of monarchies, the establishment of democracies, workers' strikes and demonstrations for women's rights, the social order became unstable. Artists like Paul Klee were among those who reacted to this. Some believed in progress and found a suitable artistic language in constructivist structures. Others yearned for pristine primitiveness. Paul Klee did both. However, he responded to technological developments with critical detachment and commented on it in numerous works.
While technical progress had a positive effect on the many people's everyday life, it also led to anxiety, depression, stress and exhaustion. Subjects such as globalisation, terrorism or 'shattered nerves' marked the media even in those days, and are all the more present in our contemporary society. For some the world's new dynamic was like an intoxicating drug. Others reacted to the challenges of an accelerated, technological society with psychical problems which were at the time described as 'Newyorkitis' or 'neurasthenia', and would today be called 'burnout'
Paul Klee. gewagt wägend [Daringly balanced], 1930, 144
Watercolour and pen on paper and cardboard. 31 x 24,5 / 23,5 cm. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
About the exhibition
Five chapters devoted to robots and cyborgs, mechanics and dynamism, photography, microscopy and X-rays, geometry and construction as welt as rhythm and polyphony shed light on phenomena of the modern age which we encounter in Paul Klee's work. The exhibition reveals how the artist openly, but also ironically and with critical detachment, analysed the time of upheaval between tradition and modernity, and how he made use of new techniques in order to refer to the developments around him. This is apparent, for example, in Klee's many geometrical drawings, or when he invents an alternative to photograms using a spraying technique and stencils. The artist was also interested in new techniques such as microscopes and X-rays, which penetrate the surfaces of an object. They extended the understanding of seeing to include pictures that the human eye could not see. This is in line with Klee's motto, expressed as early as 1920, that art does not reproduce the visible, but makes visible.
Paul Klee. Zerstörung und Hoffnung [Destruction and Hope], 1916, 55
Destruction and Hope. 40,5 x 33 cm. Private Collection
Klee's critical and ironic tendencies are apparent in his preoccupation with the rigid rules of Constructivism. He was criticised by Theo van Doesburg, an advocate for rationalist art and design and co-founder of the Dutch movement De Stijl, as being the representative of an individualistic Expressionism. One will look in vain for right angles and primary colours in Klee's works from this period: in his square paintings he took up those trends before immediately distancing himself from them. His squares are not constructed with a ruler, and he mixes the primary colours red, yellow and blue into broken colour shades.
Some 115 works reveal the diversity of Paul Klee's engagement with modern achievements in motifs and techniques. With regard to contemporary social developments the exhibition also shows the continuing topicality of his work, and offers an artistic perspective on developments that continue to preoccupy us today.
The opening of the exhibition will take place on Friday, 2 September 2022, from 6 pm. Admission to the exhibition is free on this evening.
Guided Tours in English
Sunday, 18 September / 9 October 2022, 3 pm
With the support of
Kanton Bern, Burgergemeinde Bern
Biography Paul Klee
Paul Klee in his studio, Kistlerweg 6, Bern, autumn 1935,
Photographer: Fee Meisel, 9,6 x 10 cm, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Donation of the Klee family
Paul Klee is born in Munchenbuchsee near Bern on 18th December to the music teacher Hans Wilhelm Klee (1849-1940) and the trained singer Ida Maria Frick (1855-1921).
He finishes his secondary education with a Matura. After wondering whether to become a musician or a painter he decides to go to Munich where he attends the private drawing school run by Heinrich Knirr.
Klee meets his future wife, the pianist Lily Stumpf (1876-1946).
At the Munich Academy he studies painting under Franz von Stuck.
Klee and the Bern sculptor Hermann Haller leave for a six-month period educational journey to Italy. The overwhelming richness of Rome's classical art plunges Klee into an artistic crisis.
To find himself and mature he withdraws at his parents' home in Bern, where he makes his first reverse glass paintings and etchings.
On 15th September, he marries Lily Stumpf in Bern. Two weeks later, the couple moves to Munich.
Felix, the son and only child of Paul and Lily Klee, is born on 30th November.
Exhibition at the Munich and Berlin Secession.
Participation in a group exhibition with fifty-six works at the Kunstmuseum Bern, moving on to Zurich, Winterthur, and Basel.
Klee starts with the illustration of Voltaire's Candide.
Participation in the second Blue Rider exhibition in Munich with seventeen works. In April, he travels to Paris and visits the artists Robert and Sonia Delaunay.
Klee exhibits in Berlin at the First German Autumn Salon in the gallery Der Sturm of Herwarth Walden.
In April Klee travels to Tunisia with his artist friends August Macke and Louis Moilliet. The impulses to abstraction and treatment of colour that Klee received in Paris are confirmed and further plumbed during this journey. Klee
belongs to the founding members of the Neue Munchener Secession.
On 11th March, he is drafted into the German army as a soldier. After his training in the infantry he is transferred to the maintenance company of the air corps in Schleissheim near Munich and afterwards to Gersthofen. In spite of his service at the army he continues his artistic work.
He becomes a cult figure of the new artscene in Germany due to his exhibitions at the Berlin gallery Der Sturm.
Klee's art dealer Hans Goltz organises a first retrospective in Munich with 362 artworks. On 29th October, Walter Gropius calls Klee to the Bauhaus in Weimar.
On 13th May, Klee commences his academic teaching career at the Bauhaus and moves with his family from Munich to Weimar.
The first exhibition in a German museum takes place in Berlin at the Na- tionalgalerie in the Kronprinzen-Palais.
First solo exhibition in New York. The artists group The Blue Four with Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Alexej Jawlensky and Paul Klee is founded by the artdealer Galka Scheyer.
The Bauhaus moves to Dessau. Participation of Klee at the first Surrealist exhibition Lapeinturesurrealiste in Paris together with Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and others.
Klee and his familiy move to Dessau. There they live with Wassily and Nina Kandinsky in one of the three duplexes built by Gropius for Bauhaus master craftsmen.
Trip to Egypt.
To Klee's fiftieth birthday several exhibitions take place such as in Berlin, Dresden, New York and Paris.
Klee takes up a professorship at the Dusseldorf Academy on 1st July.
Klee is suspended from his position as a professor by the National Socialists. At the end of the year 1933 he emigrates to Switzerland initially living in his parental home in Bern.
Klee falls ill, first with bronchitis followed by a pneumonia. In November the illness is diagnosed as measles. But actually it is an undetected scleroderma.
Due to his poor health his output for the year is just twenty-five works - an all-time low.
The National Socialists defame Klee's art as "degenerated” and seize 102 of his works in German museums. 17 of them are presented at the exhibition Degenerated Artin Munich.
Despite of his bad health the year 1939 with 1 '253 registered works is Klee's most productive year.
On 29th June Paul Klee dies in Locarno-Muralto.
Paul Klee in the Tretyakov Gallery Magazine:
The Paul Klee Centre in Bern
Michael Baumgartner, Carole Haensler
Paul Klee. Carpet of Memory
The Zentrum Paul Klee: Meeting Place of Klee and Picasso