Paul Klee at Tate Modern, London

Last Friday I went to see the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern, London. Well, it was outstanding – everything I’d hoped for – and I shall go again before it closes if I can possibly manage it. Paul Klee at Tate Modern

The first thing to say about this exhibition is that it requires a bit of stamina; it fills lots of rooms. My friend Laura and I went round slowly, and took a coffee break at about the halfway point, but it was still pretty tiring. I haven’t previously seen much of Klee’s work, except in reproduction in books and on the internet, and it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to look at them thoroughly. He was clearly an experimental painter from the outset, and many of the really early works in the exhibition show that he was working on familiar themes (use of colour, squares, triangles and so on) from very early in his career. Some of the features we found especially striking:

  • The work sometimes looks very different from a distance. Where Klee has highlighted a particular colour by surrounding it with duller or contrasting hues, the highlighted colour stands out wonderfully well the further back you move from it.
  • The backgrounds are often very interesting with a lot of visual texture; this is an aspect that’s hard to appreciate when you see photos of the pictures in books.
  • Klee often explored quite simple concepts such as colour complementaries, but in a very complex way (see the example below)Paul Klee - Architecture

I’ve loved the Klee paintings of squares ever since I first became aware of them, but looking closely at this exhibition made me realise that the composition of the pictures is often very complex. For one thing, they’re not usually squares when you look closely.

In summary, it was fabulous and I shall do my best to go again.

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