Thursday, 7 July 2016

Paul Klee Exhibition Paris

During our holiday this year we were lucky enough to spend a day in Paris. We went to the Centre Pompidou and saw an exhibition of works by Paul Klee.

The first thing that struck me was the scale of the works, the majority of them were very modest, not grand canvases created by other artist's such as Picasso. I wonder how that affected his impact as an artist. I read about him after the exhibition and he said that 'I have attempted to transfer to large formats that which I have already done in watercolour' he wrote in 1930. 'Of course this cant be done so quickly or playfully'(Lampe, 2016). This suggests an experimental way of working, which may have been hampered by the time investment required for larger works. Working on a small scale also meant Klee was able to produce a large quantity of diverse works (Marnat, 1974).

Klee did produce etchings in the early part of his career, and in the later part of his career produced many mixed media paintings with unusual combinations such as oil and watercolour which were interesting to study to try and imagine his working processes and the way these media would be layered. Some of these mixed media paintings contained oil transfer paintings, which I think is a technique similar to back drawing, and produces similar results.

The primary difference between this and back drawing is that the ink is placed on the back of a drawing which is placed over canvas or cardboard and the lines are drawn from the front, on the piece of paper, transferring onto the canvas behind.

I was drawn to works which are based on symbols and calligraphy as this is an area I am exploring in my own artwork. 

The influence of Egyptian hieroglyphics are clear here. Other works show the influence of other symbols such as music notation, Klee was a lifelong musician

Paul Klee ~ Erzengel ~ 1938

In this work the symbols are arranged to look like an angel, a recurring theme in Klee's late work, representing the limit between life and death. The Arabic alphabet may have been an influence for these symbols. Earlier works were influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese calligraphy and a range of symbols, forming a distinct theme in Klee's work (Lampe, 2016). This theme began after a visit to Egypt and the work Little Vignette for Egypt 1918. This exploration of symbols lead Klee to the verge of abstraction in his own unique way (Marnat, 1974).

Erzengel is created on a thick hessian canvas, the texture of which clearly shows in the work. Klee was experimental in his use of surfaces and ways of preparing these for paint, these choices making a big impact on the final work, often showing through in places.

Some ideas I will take from this exhibition:
  • Explore using symbols including music notation
  • Explore creating stylized images with symbols or abstracted calligraphy
  • Use a range of surfaces for printing with varied textures


Lampe, Angela. 2016, Munich: Prestel Verlag.

Marnat, Marcel. 1974, London: Spurbooks.

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