Paul Klee: second visit

Last Thursday, as planned, I made a second trip to Tate Modern to see the Paul Klee exhibition. It’s not often I get the opportunity to go and see a big exhibition for a second time, but from the limited experience I’ve had of doing this, I think it’s well worth while taking a second or even third look at something that really appeals to you. A few years ago, for reasons too tedious to explain, I spent a week in Toronto with very little to do. I soon sought out the Art Gallery of Ontario and spent several hours each day in there looking at their outstanding exhibits. I realised that repeated exposure to the same artworks was a really effective way of getting to know them. A potentially rather grim week in a strange city turned into a quite magical experience.

Well, mustn’t lose my thread… This time at the Paul Klee I didn’t feel obliged to try to look at all the paintings but instead homed in on the ones I’d particularly liked last time. I spent longer looking at them, and I looked at them in a more systematic way. Here’s a picture that I really enjoyed seeing again:Fire in the evening by Paul Klee

This is ‘Fire in the evening’ from 1929. The fire is depicted, I guess, in the slightly off-centre red rectangle (almost but not quite a square) which is almost supernaturally visible from quite a distance. When you get closer up you start to appreciate the more sombre colours of the rectangles that surround it. And this is the thing that most struck me on this visit: the variation and quality of the less obvious colours. There is such a vast range of striking colours in this picture alone – subtle pinks and mauves and greys and greens… and so on. I think there’s a textile-like quality here, and you can appreciate the influence Klee must have had upon Bauhaus textiles designs.

This and other paintings made me want to get home and start experimenting with muted shades of colour. Klee used a huge range of shades, and they are beautifully put together. I’ve had a busy weekend working and am looking at another busy week ahead so time available for playing around with colour is strictly limited, unfortunately. However, one of the items in my busy week to come is another trip to London when I will be staying on the South Bank, just, as it happens, around the corner from Tate Modern. So it’s just possible that I’ll be going for a third visit to the Paul Klee…. Watch this space and I’ll report back if I do.


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