Paul Klee: Making Visible

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Paul Klee ('Fire at Full Moon', 1933)
'Fire at Full Moon', 1933© Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Paul Klee ( 'Steps', 1929)
'Steps', 1929© Moderna Museet (Stockholm, Sweden)
Paul Klee ('Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms', 1920)
'Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms', 1920Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Source: Art Resource/Scala Photo Archives
Paul Klee ('Static-Dynamic Intensification', 1923)
'Static-Dynamic Intensification', 1923© Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Paul Klee (ABMT, Uni Basel, 2005)
ABMT, Uni Basel, 2005Park bei Lu.
Paul Klee ('Comedy', 1921)
'Comedy', 1921© Tate. Purchased 1946

No other artist of the twentieth century made marks, lines and doodles sing with quite the same melody as Paul Klee. As a result, you’ll spend ages peering at and poring over the witty, joyful masterpieces in this career-spanning retrospective of the Swiss-German artist, watching Klee’s ideas spring to life on canvas and on tiny sheets of paper that become flickering constellations. It's hard to imagine now that his intricate, fantastical art was regarded as 'degenerate' by the Nazis in the early1930s. At that time, Klee was teaching at the Düsseldorf Academy. When he returned to his native Bern in Switzerland in 1933, his work became darker in tone, reflecting the deteriorating political situation and his severe illness – diagnosed as scleroderma in 1936.

The Tate's exhibition challenges Klee’s reputation as a whimsical dreamer – famous for describing drawing as being like 'taking a line for a walk – drawing attention to the rigour with which he recorded and catalogued his work throughout his career. We can’t time-travel to enter Klee’s studio and see how his works progressed but, in offering up paintings made in sequence, Tate Modern’s show gives us the next best thing. Moving through the exhibition is like seeing a series of snapshots of Klee’s working life. You’ll discover how paintings developed in tandem or relay, like the Tate’s famous watercolour ‘They’re Biting’, which is flanked by three works that precede it and one that follows. Or how they may have been revisited and reworked over time, like ‘Akt (Nude)’, which Klee started in 1910 but didn’t finish until 1924.

Tate’s reappraisal sheds light on dualities in Klee’s character. He was a talented musician (he played the violin, often to make ends meet) as well as an artist. He was also ambidextrous, painting and drawing with one hand while writing with the other. This stunning show also reveals that, while there are elements of cubism, surrealism and pointillism in his work, he was, above all, an individualist. It leaves you with a sense of creative, personal enquiry about the world that is uplifting and truly inspiring.

Martin Coomer

Read our interview with the exhibition curator Matthew Gale and see his pick of the paintings on show here.


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Didn't realise he worked so small or was so prolific. Great to see so many of his works together and the colours and change of scale in the final room is a joy. Beautifully hung exhibition. Well done Tate Modern.

This is a huge chronological retrospective of a giant of modern European art. The show itself is well-curated and gives a generous amount of space to each of the pieces on show. Despite comprehensive and illuminating interpretation, the work itself fails to excite. Abstract fans may find much to delight them here, but the muted colour palette, limited subject matter and tiny canvas size will leave many wanting more. For more of the latest arts reviews, check out

I have not heard about Klee before I went to the exhibition and was told he was German's Picasso. While I enjoyed a few of his pieces, I found his art difficult to connect with. Small canvas and simple shapes and patterns, often childlike did not appeal to me but then modern art just based on shapes and patterns never appeals to me so you have to decide for yourself which art lover category you belong to: the ones that love all the squares, fish and dots or the ones you prefer something slightly more classical.

Brilliant view - found a new artist - inspiring, exciting.

Unlike other exhibitions, this is a stunning display of work. Do not expect large displays of colour and abstract views, instead you are treated to intimate views of small fine works, all of which will challenge your views of art through this period and don't expect to fit this in if you have limited time as it can take a while to view the large number of displays.

Paul Klee appears as a true individualist. Although being part of important groups like "der blaue Reiter" und Bauhaus he clearly followed his own thing and invented paintings techniques which are fairly well recognisable. The exhibition with 16 rooms covers the different periods in his life, provide historic facts and make his artistic development "readable". His format is typically quite small, not many of his paintings may qualify as being beautiful or nice to have on the living room wall but his remarkable "story" make the exhibition absolutely worth your time and attention

Wonderful exhibition on a briliant man. Particularly liked how it gave lots of interesting background detail for each stage in his career, as well as the pieces themselves.

We truthfully enjoyed the exhibition and the diversity of art Paul Klee produced. The introduction given at the beginning of tour gave a wonderful insight to this artists background and struggle to produce what is a large collection of works. Thank you