Kosmos Klee. The Collection | Zentrum Paul Klee

Exhibition view Kosmos Klee. The Collection, Zentrum Paul Klee, 2024, photo: Rolf Siegenthaler
Exhibition view Kosmos Klee. The Collection, Zentrum Paul Klee, 2024,
photo: Rolf Siegenthaler
Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Museumsstiftung für Kunst der Burgergemeinde Bern

The dynamic permanent exhibition devoted to Paul Klee invites visitors to immerse themselves in the life and work of this important modern artist. With some 70 changing works from the collection, Kosmos Klee offers a chronological survey of Klee’s artistic career. Biographical and archival material provide an insight into his life and time. In addition, the 'focus room’ offers a space for smaller exhibitions devoted to individual aspects of Klee’s work, or contributions to the artist’s global reception.

Paul Klee. eins der schönsten Gleichnisse [One of the Most Beautiful Parables], 1933, 61
Paul Klee. eins der schönsten Gleichnisse [One of the Most Beautiful Parables], 1933, 61
Watercolour on paper on cardboard 48,5 x 62,2 cm
Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Museumsstiftung für Kunst der Burgergemeinde Bern

The collection
The Zentrum Paul Klee is the world's most important centre for research into Paul Klee's life and work, and with some 4,000 works it has one of the largest collections of the artist's drawings, watercolours and paintings. Paul Klee was primarily a draughtsman, which is why 80% of the collection of the Zentrum Paul Klee consists of works on paper, matching the collected works. Because of the large size, diversity and fragility of the collection, not all works and highlights from the collection can be shown at once. Klee enjoyed experimenting, not only in terms of content and form but also technically, using light-sensitive paints, inks and papers. For that reason the works need periods of rest between periods on display.

Paul Klee. Ohne Titel (Dorfkirche, Bach, Berge und runde Brücke) [ untitled (Village Church, Stream, Mountain and Arched Bridge)], 1896
Paul Klee. Ohne Titel (Dorfkirche, Bach, Berge und runde Brücke) [ untitled (Village Church, Stream, Mountain and Arched Bridge)], 1896
Watercolour and pencil on paper. 8,3 x 9,3 cm
Private collection, Switzerland, deposit at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Kosmos Klee
With Kosmos Klee. The Collection the Zentrum Paul Klee offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in Paul Klee's life and work, as well as in the unique collection of the institution. Some 70 rotating and chronologically organised works provide an overview of Klee's artistic development, from the highly detailed early works via tendencies towards abstraction and the discovery of colour, to the reduced pictorial language of the later work. Each decade of Klee's artistic career is identified by a colour in the exhibition, allowing visitors to find their way intuitively around the space. Brief introductory texts, biographical photographs and films give deeper insights into the different phases of the work and Paul Klee's engagement with the people around him.

Paul Klee in his studio, Kistlerweg 6, Bern, April (Easter) 1938
Paul Klee in his studio, Kistlerweg 6, Bern, April (Easter) 1938,
photo: Felix Klee 12,8 x 9 cm, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Donation of the Klee family,
© Klee-Nachlassverwaltung, Hinterkappelen


Paul Klee was born the son of music teacher Hans Wilhelm Klee (1849-1940) and singer Ida Maria Frick (1855-1921) on 18 December in Munchenbuchsee near Bern.
After finishing his secondary education and wavering between music and painting for a long time, he decides to study art and goes to Munich where he attends Heinrich Knirr's private drawing school.
Klee meets his future wife, the pianist Lily Stumpf (1876-1946).
After five months, he breaks off his studies at the Munich Academy in Franz von Stuck's painting class.
In July, Klee returns to his parents in Bern.
He undertakes a six-month educational trip through Italy with the sculptor Hermann Haller and experiences a creative crisis in view of the art of antiquity and the Renaissance.
He retreats to his parents' house to study on his own and creates his first reverse glass paintings and etchings.
After marrying Lily Stumpf on 15 September in Bern, the couple move to Munich.
On 30 September, their son Felix is born.
Klee meets the artists of the BlauerReiter. August Macke, Gabriele Munter, Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej Jawlensky and later Franz Marc.
17 works of Klee are part of the second BlauerReterexhibition in Munich. In April, he travels to Paris, where he sees Cubist works for the first time and visits Robert and Sonia Delaunay.
In April, Klee travels to Tunisia with August Macke and Louis Moilliet. There, he deepens the impulses towards abstraction and colour design which he received in Paris.
On 11 March, Klee is called up to the army and, after infantry training, performs his military service with the aviation unit in Schleissheim near Munich and in Gersthofen. He is able to continue his artistic work.
Through his exhibitions in the Berlin gallery DerSturm, he becomes a cult figure of young art in Germany.
Hans Goltz, who represented Klee in his gallery, organises a first retrospective of 362 works in Munich. The first Klee monographs are published. In October, Klee is appointed to the Bauhaus in Weimar by Walter Gropius.
On 13 May, Klee moves from Munich to Weimar and starts teaching.
The Berlin National Gallery organises Klee's first museum exhibition in Germany in the Kronprinzen-Palais.
Art dealer Galka Scheyer founds the artist group Die Blaue Vierwith Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Alexej Jawlensky and Paul Klee and tries to make the artists known in the U.S.
he Bauhaus moves to Dessau.
Klee takes part in the first surrealist group exhibition La peinture surrealiste in Paris together with Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso and other artists.
Klee and his familiy move to Dessau, where they live in one of the two-family houses built by Gropius for Bauhaus masters with Wassily and Nina Kandinsky.
Klee undertakes a journey through Egypt. The hieroglyphs and the Nile landscape in particular leave their mark on his work.
Several exhibitions are organised to celebrate Klee's 50th birthday, including in Berlin, Dresden and Paris as well as at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Klee leaves the Bauhaus and takes up a professorship at the Dusseldorf Academy of Art.
Under pressure from the National Socialists, Klee is dismissed from his teaching position. At the end of the year, he leaves Germany with his wife and returns to his hometown of Bern.
Klee shows the first signs of scleroderma.
His poor state of health makes Klee's artistic work much more difficult.
Klee's art is labelled "degenerate" by the National Socialists and 102 of his works are confiscated from German museums. 15 of them are part of the exhibition Entartete Kunst.
Despite his poor state of health, Klee's productivity reaches a peak. He creates 1253 works in just one year.
On 29 June, Paul Klee dies in Locarno-Muralto. His application for naturalisation, which had been pending until then, is approved on 5 July.

Fabienne Eggelhofer

With the support of
Kanton Bern, Bundesamt fur Kultur BAK, Burgergemeinde Bern


Paul Klee. italienische Stadt [ Italian Town], 1928, 66
Paul Klee. italienische Stadt [ Italian Town], 1928, 66
Ink and watercolour on paper on cardboard. 33 x 23,4 cm
Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Private collection, Switzerland, deposit at the Zentrum Paul Klee

Fokus. Architecture with Klee. From Mies van der Rohe to Lisbeth Sachs


From 1 June to 13 October 2024, in the context of the permanent exhibition KosmosKlee, the Zentrum Paul Klee presents a thematic focus which for the first time explores Paul Klee’s influence on the architecture of the 20th century.

‘Everywhere I see only architecture, linear rhythms, planar rhythms.'
Paul Klee (1902)

It is well known that Paul Klee influenced music, literature and philosophy in a variety of ways. The fact that the artist also made a lasting impression on architects is the theme of the focus exhibition Architecture with Klee. From Mies van der Rohe to Lisbeth Sachs. At the centre are the remarkable traces of Klee that we can see in the work of selected architects such ase Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Carlo Scarpa, Lisbeth Sachs, Lina Bo Bardi, Aldo van Eyck and Aldo Rossi. Designs, sketches, models and photographs are shown next to works by Klee, his art-theoretical drawings and pedagogical sketches. In this way the presentation shows the interdisciplinary interplay between architecture and art: the architecture is viewed from the sophisticated perspective of Klee the Bauhaus teacher, and his abstract and fantastical works are seen from the viewpoint of architects.

One particular area on which the exhibition concentrates is the fascination that Klee exerted on Lisbeth Sachs - one of Switzerland’s first independent women architects - and on the internationally successful Italian architect and theorist Aldo Rossi. As early as the 1940s, Sachs was active as a critic and in 1948, on the occasion of the Klee exhibition held by Bern’s Paul Klee Foundation in the Kunsthaus Zurich, published a probing review in the Neue ZurcherZeitung, which is still worth reading today. Sachs’s preoccupation with Klee bore its first fruits in the design and execution of the art pavilion at the SAFFA (Swiss Exhibition for Women’s Work) in Zurich in 1958. Klee’s theory of design, Das bildnerische Denkenwas probably a major source of inspiration for the architect. Some ten years later Aldo Rossi, at the time a lecturer at Milan Polytechnic University, quoted Klee in his theoretical writings. Rossi discovered a model for his architecture in Klee’s autobiographical works, which is bound up with historical memory while being at the same time constructive and rational. Particular attention is paid in the exhibition to Rossi’s now forgotten design for the Klosterliareal in Bern in 1981.

Fabienne Eggelhofer, Osamu Okuda



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