Thursday, 19 December 2013

Paul Klee Exhibition at Tate Modern

The Paul Klee exhibition is running up until March 2014 at the Tate Modern.
I got the chance to go for free through my university but usually the prices are about £15 for an adult and only slightly less for concessions. My advice is to ask for the 2 for 1 booklet from any train station in or around the London area - you can then get 2 for 1 which makes it a bit more reasonable.

The exhibition consists of 17 rooms which in my eyes is brilliant value for money if you are to consider that for the same(ish) price at Tate Britain their current exhibition only has about 7 rooms. There is a lot of content and if you are a fan of Paul Klee i'm fairly sure all of the pieces you may want to see will be there!

Paul Klee was a big name in 20th century art because although in his work there is obvious influence from the Cubists, the Constructivists, the German Expressionists and Abstractionists etc, he drew on their influence and put his own twist on it. What came from that? a 'very personal use of line', according to the Curator Matthew Gale.

The exhibition is laid out chronologically and each of the 17 rooms while being arranged chronologically have also been grouped under a common theme be it composition, colour, an event, etc.. Each room also has an explanation written on the wall in a clear, large typeface to give you a concise idea of the particular works that came from that period. The pamphlet that they give you on your way in is also ordered in a chronological manner instead of room by room. The placards that accompany the paintings do not on every ocassion have information on the particular work that it may refer to. However, it is clear to see that where appropriate, and where an image may have more significance than the others, the placard offers an insight into the image.

The first room offers a timeline to the viewer, and covers from his birth to his death and everything in between. The middle of the room if I remember correctly has a small display of his diary.

Klee was born in 1879. As a child he studied music and thus he began his career as a musician. It wasn't until he was 19 that he moves to Germany to study painting. After an affair and a deceased young child he spent a while in Italy and there felt 'humiliated' by the works of the past. Therefore, when he returns to Bern he takes on a course in anatomical drawing. He married Lily Stumpf in 1906 and by 1907 he has his first child with her. Over the next 5 years he takes part in some of his first exhibitions, including one with the 'Blue Rider' group. Among his new Blue Rider friends were Kandinsky, Macke and Marc. After the outbreak of WW1 his friends disbanded as they were now enemies of the German State, One of these, Macke, was actually killed in war.

His art begins to respond to the war and thus was the increase in abstract forms in an effort to escape the war torn reality. He himself was meant to join the army but a new policy was set that said artists were to receive preferential treatment because so many of them had already died at war.

By 1920 he was considered a significant artist and had his first large scale solo exhibition before joining the Bauhaus School in 1921 as a teacher.

A year later a Russian art exhibition is held in Berlin and signposted the first monumental shift from German Expressionism to geometrical and abstract art. Klee was clearly influenced by this too. However, just as this art surfaced a horrific case of hyper-inflation and a national sense of anti-communism surfaced. An art collector called Scheyer formulated the idea that Klee and 3 other artists should form a group called the 'Blue Four' that would jointly exhibit work in the US. Because of economic troubles the cheeky bastard also had the 'Klee society' established for him, whereby people would pay him a regular income! with the promise that they can buy his works at a special rate.

Klee was a lot like Picasso in that he dabbled in a lot of different styles and throughout the first half of the 1920's he used automatism (drawing without thinking about it or looking at it - it supposedly exposes your subconscious thoughts) and was involved in a Surrealist exhibition in Paris... and not forgetting his cubist and suprematist inspired works.

He turned 50 in 1929 and had part in the 1930 exhibition by Barr at MoMA. In 1932 he saw Picasso's collection of works for the first time having 'resisted' them for quite some time. After this, his works got a bit bigger in size as if to compete with Picasso. By 1933 Hitler had raided Klee's house seeing as he was a so called 'degenerate' modern artist. Klee then emigrated to Switzerland. His new life was not as swish as his life before and conditions were cramped. In 1934 his first exhibition in England was held and in 1935 Klee made another exhibition in Bern. This was a response to the fact that he was living off of his savings and needed some dollar. Everything that he exhibited was focused on his life in Switzerland and it seemed as if his German past was being put aside.

However, during this time in his life painting became increasingly difficult. He was suffering from a fatal disease, Scleroderma. By 1936 he could only manage to paint 25 paintings as opposed to the 200-500 he was making earlier on in his life. His body was literally seizing up and he soon became unable to swallow.

By 1937 Hitler became comfortable in his position and made a further crack down on the so called degenerate art. He took 16000 pieces of art in total and either sold them off or destroyed them (or in some cases people stole them themselves to either protect or make money on them!). In total there were 150 by Klee that were taken. Hopefully they show up in the recent bundle of art that they found in that random flat! In 1939 Klee had lived in Switzerland long enough to get his citizenship. Unfortunately, he only got to enjoy it for a year because he died in 1940.

That was my attempt at a concise(ish) summary of the history that is used to contextualise the exhibition. I used the 'EY Exhibition, Paul Klee: Making Visible, Tate Modern, 2013' pamphlet to gather my info. But of course, if you want to experience the real thing you'll have to go see it!

It was probably one of the more enjoyable exhibitions I have been to, and the fact that Gale made it so historically rich is definitely something other curators could take note of. There was a lot on display which of course can overload you with information but on the other hand is what you'd want if you're paying £15!

Here are some images that were on display:
The Hotel, 1913

Flowerbed, 1913

Landscape with Flags, 1915

Rememberance Sheet of a Conception, 1918

With the Rainbow, 1917

Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms, 1920

They're Biting, 1920

Aquarium, 1921

Comedy, 1921

A Yound Lady's Adventure, 1922

Architecture, 1923

Fish Magic, 1925

Ships in the Dark, 1927

In the Current Six Thresholds, 1929

Dispute, 1929

Before the Snow, 1929

Toys, 1931

The Man of the Future, 1933

Forest Witches, 1938

Rich Harbour, 1938

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