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―First of all, the art of living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and

as my real profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations.‖

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was one of the most inventive, prolific and
individual artists of the 20th century. Swiss painter
of German nationality, His highly individual style
was influenced by many different art trends,
including expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.
He was a student of orientalism. Klee was a
natural draftsman who experimented with and
eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote
extensively about it. His works reflect his dry
humor and his sometimes child-like perspective,
his personal moods and beliefs, and his
musicality. He was taught to draw and paint by his
maternal grandmother. He graduated from the
Bern Gymnasium (secondary school) in 1898, the
year his family moved to Munich, where Klee
began his studies at the Munich Academy of Fine Art.

Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee (near Bern), Switzerland into a musical

family. His father, Hans Klee, was a German music teacher at the Hofwil Teacher
Seminar near Bern. His mother, Maria Frick, had trained to be a singer. He was the
second of two children.
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Early life and training

Klee started young at both art and music. At
age seven, he started playing the violin, and at age
eight, he was given a box of chalk by his
grandmother. Klee appears to have been equally
talented in music and art. In his early years, following
his parents’ wishes, he focused on becoming a
musician; but he decided on the visual arts during his teen years, partly out of
rebellion and partly because of his belief that modern music lacked meaning for him.
He stated, ―I didn’t find the idea of going in for music creatively particularly attractive
in view of the decline in the history of musical achievement.‖As a musician, he
played and felt emotionally bound to traditional works of the 18th and 19th century,
but as an artist he craved the freedom to explore radical ideas and styles. At sixteen,
Klee’s landscape drawings already show considerable skill.
Around 1897, he started his diary, which he kept until 1918, and which has
provided scholars with valuable insight into his life and thought. During his school
years, he was avidly drawing in his school books, particularly caricatures, and
already demonstrating skill with line and volume. He barely passed his final exams at
the ―Gymnasium‖ of Bern, where he qualified in Humanities. Writing in his
characteristically dry witty style, he wrote, ―After all, it’s rather difficult to achieve the
exact minimum, and it evolves risks.‖ However, on his own time, in addition to his
deep interests in music and art, Klee was a great reader of literature, and later a
writer on art theory and aesthetics.

With his parents’ reluctant permission, in 1898 he began studying art at the
Academy of Fine Arts in Munich .He excelled at drawing but seemed to lack any
natural colour sense. He later recalled, ―During the third winter I even realized that I
probably would never learn to paint.‖ During these times of youthful adventure, Klee
spent much time in pubs and had affairs with lower class women and artists models.
He had an illegitimate son in 1900 who died several weeks after birth.

In 1901, Klee recorded his guiding principles of life: ―First of all, the art of
living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and as my real
profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations.‖ After
receiving his Fine Arts degree, Klee went to Italy for several months with friend
Hermann Haller. They stayed in Rome, Florence, and Naples, and studied the
master painters of past centuries. He exclaimed, ―The Forum and the Vatican have
spoken to me. Humanism wants to suffocate me.‖ He responded to the colours of
Italy, but sadly noted, ―That a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of colour.‖
For Klee, colour represented the optimism and nobility in art, and a hoped for relief
from the pessimistic nature he expressed in his black-and-white grotesques and
satires. Returning to Bern, he lived with his parents for several years, and took
occasional art classes. By 1905, he was developing some experimental techniques,
including drawing with a needle on a blackened pane of glass, resulting in fifty-seven
works including his Portrait of My Father (1906). He also completed a cycle of eleven
zinc-plate etchings called Inventions, his first exhibited works, in which he illustrated
several grotesque creatures. He commented, “Though I’m fairly satisfied with my
etchings I can’t go on like this. I’m not a specialist.” Klee was still dividing his
time with music, playing the violin in an orchestra and writing concert and theatre

Marriage and early career

In 1901-06 he travelled through Italy and visited Paris and Berlin, returning at
intervals to Bern, where he played violin in the Bern orchestra. He returned to
Munich in 1906 and married the Swiss pianist Lily Stumpf and they had one son
named Felix Paul in the following year. In 1911 he met August Macke and Wassily
Kandinsky, who was to become a lifelong friend. On meeting Kandinsky, Klee
recorded, ―I came to feel a deep trust in him. He is somebody, and has an
exceptionally beautiful and lucid mind.‖That year he also travelled to Paris a second
time, saw Cubist works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque first saw the satirical
drawings of Daumier, and met French painter Robert Delaunay who awakened Klee
to symbolist ideas of colour. Rather than copy these artists, Klee began working out
his own colour experiments in pale watercolours and did some primitive landscapes,
including In the Quarry (1913) and Houses near the Gravel Pit (1913), using
blocks of colour with limited overlap. Klee acknowledged that in order to reach his
―distant noble aim‖ ―a long struggle lies in store for me in this field of colour.‖ Soon,
he discovered ―the style which connects drawing and the realm of colour.‖ He
travelled to Tunisia in 1914, a trip that permanently aroused his sensitivity to colour.
He returned to become a founding member of the New Munich Secession. A few
weeks later, World War I began. At first, Klee was somewhat detached from it, as he
wrote ironically, ―I have long had this war in me. That is why, inwardly, it is none of
my concern.‖ Soon, however, it began to affect him Klee was profoundly affected by
Franz Marc's death in battle in April 1916, the same month Klee was inducted into
the German army, where he painted aircraft and worked as a paymaster's clerk. . By
1917, Klee’s work was selling well and art
critics acclaimed him as the best of the
new German artists. His Ab ovo (1917) is
particularly noteworthy for its sophisticated
technique. It employs watercolour on
gauze and paper with a chalk ground,
which produces a rich texture of triangular,
circular, and crescent patterns.
Demonstrating his range of exploration, mixing colour and line, his Warning of the
Ships (1918) is a coloured drawing filled with symbolic images on a field of
suppressed colour. After the War, in 1919 Klee was given a major exhibition of 362
works by Munich art dealer Hans Goltz, which brought Klee immediate international
critical notice. He was invited by Walter Gropius (1883-1969) to join the Staatsliche
Bauhaus art school, where he was a "master of form" in the glass, mural and
bookbinding workshops during 1921-24 (at Weimar) then 1925-31 (when the school
relocated to Dessau). This was a decade of active exhibiting (in the Bauhaus
festivals, in Paris and New York), extensive summer travels (to the North Sea, Sicily,
Paris, Corsica, Egypt and several trips to northern Italy), and publication of his
Pedagogical Sketchbook (1925), a condensed version of his Bauhaus design

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Mature career

In 1919, Klee applied for a teaching post at the

Academy of Art in Düsseldorf. This attempt failed but
he had a major success in securing a three-year
contract (with a minimum annual income) with dealer
Hans Goltz, whose influential gallery gave Klee major
exposure, and some commercial success. A
retrospective of over 300 works in 1920 was also

Miraculous Landing

Klee taught at the Bauhaus, the art school newly formed in 1919 to unite arts
and crafts in one institution and to give each student ―a thorough training in the
workshops of all branches‖. Klee was a ―Form‖ master in the bookbinding, stained
glass, and mural painting workshops. He was also provided with two studios. In
1922, Kandinsky joined the staff and resumed his friendship with Klee. Later that
year the first Bauhaus exhibition and festival was held, for which Klee created
several of the advertising materials. Within the Bauhaus there were many conflicting
theories and opinions, which Klee welcomed, ―I also approve of these forces
competing one with the other if the result is achievement.‖

Klee was also a member of Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), with Kandinsky,
Feininger, and Jawlensky; formed in 1923, they lectured and exhibited together in
the USA in 1925. That same year, Klee had his first exhibits in Paris, and he became
a hit with the French Surrealists. Klee visited Egypt in 1928 which impressed him
less than Tunisia. In 1929, the first major monograph on Klee’s work was published,
written by Will Grohmann.

The dark days of fascism

When the Nazis came to power in 1933
Klee was classified as a "degenerate artist,"
suspended from teaching, ridiculed in the
newspapers and harassed at home by the police;
at year's end he moved with his family back to the
safety of Bern and in 1933 the Bauhaus was finally
shut down. Emigrants did succeed, however, in Digitally signed by
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Chicago. Klee also taught at the Struck from the List Date: 2009.02.07
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Düsseldorf Academy from 1931 to 1933, and was singled out by a Nazi newspaper,
―Then that great fellow Klee comes onto the scene, already famed as a Bauhaus
teacher in Dessau. He tells everyone he’s a thoroughbred Arab, but he’s a typical
Galician Jew.‖ His home was searched and he was fired from his job. His self-portrait
Struck from the List (1933) commemorates the sad occasion. In 1933-4, Klee had
shows in London and Paris, and finally met Picasso whom he greatly admired. The
Klee family immigrated to Switzerland in late 1933.

Klee was at the peak of his creative output. His Ad Parnassum (1932) is
considered his masterpiece and the best example of his pointillist style; it is also one
of his largest, most finely worked paintings. He produced nearly 500 works in 1933
during his last year in Germany His output in
1936 was only 25 pictures. Klee’s simpler and
larger designs enabled him to keep up his output
in his final years, and in 1939 he created over
1,200 works, a career high for one year. He used
heavier lines and mainly geometric forms with
fewer but larger blocks of colour. His varied
colour palettes, some with bright colours and
others sober, perhaps reflected his alternating
moods of optimism and pessimism. Back in
Germany in1937, seventeen of Klee’s pictures Ad Parnassum

were included in an exhibition of ―Degenerate Art‖ and 102 of his works in public
collections were seized by the Nazis.

End life and a tragic death

In 1933, Klee began experiencing the symptoms of what was diagnosed as
scleroderma after his death. The progression of his fatal disease, which made
swallowing very difficult, can be followed through the art he created in his last years.
In the later 1930’s, his health recovered somewhat and he was encouraged by a visit
from Kandinsky and Picasso. He died in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, in 1940
without having obtained Swiss citizenship, despite his birth in that country. His art
work was considered too revolutionary, even degenerate, by the Swiss authorities,
but eventually they accepted his request six days after his death. His legacy
comprises about 9,000 works of art. The words on his tombstone, his father’s credo,
say, "I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is much
among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation
than usual, But still not close enough."

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Paul Klee’s Work
OPUS I (Modern Inventions)

Between 1903 and 1905 Klee produced eleven etchings, which he catalogued
together under the subtitle Inventions. In using a term calculated to carry the
meaning of the Italian invention, Klee signalled his
readiness to test his imagination, which at that point was well fed by
observation of both nature and art. His subtitle also aptly characterized
an inventive stylistic synthesis for which he coined the adjective ―Gothic-
classical.’’ This compound modifier succinctly
brings together Klee’s northern artistic heritage with
a program of immersion in the classical
tradition undertaken during his Italian Wanderjahr,
thus encompassing the range of influences and
ideas with which he grappled in his formative
years. The literary and visual sources of these
ideas converge in the Inventions. Klee himself
alluded to some of his myriad classical sources,
pairing the first version of The Comedian with
Aristophanes’ comedies, and describing the Aged Phoenix as a Homeric simile.
Among the many possible Gothic prototypes

for the figures in Two Gentlemen Bowing to One Another, Each supposing
the other to be in a Higher
Position are the skeletal partners
in late medieval representations
of the Dance of Death. In
addition to providing a key to the
range of sources for the
Inventions, Klee’s Gothic-
classical polarity invites the
viewer to consider the group of Burhan Digitally signed by Burhan Ul Haq
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eleven Inventions as an initial

manifestation of the interplay of polar opposites that would continue to inform the
artist’s evolving aesthetic system.

Another manifestation of reconcilable contradiction is implicit in the numerical

sequence imposed on what appear to be non-sequential visual images. Each
Invention is numbered as well as titled. The assigned numbers, which in most cases
are etched into the plates; do not indicate the order in which the etchings were
completed, nor do they correspond to any readily apparent causal or chronological
sequence. Instead, the numbers impose an external structure on what Klee evidently
perceived as an internal semantic order. The Inventions are linked by this
numerically imposed order, as well as by commonalties of style, composition, and
thematic content. Despite disparities of size and scale, they hold up under scrutiny
as an ensemble, even if not originally conceived as such.

References to the etched Inventions are scattered throughout Klee’s Diaries

and letters from 1902 to 1905. Klee pieced these sporadic references together in
1920 when he drafted an autobiographical statement for the author of a monograph
on his work. The text prepared for Leopold Zahn consists of excerpts from Diaries,
amplified with additional commentary and arranged such that Klee could
convincingly present the Inventions as his cohesive Opus I. The term opus, often
applied to musical compositions and occasionally to literary works, was an odd
choice for a relatively modest group of eleven visual images. The simplest
explanation for Klee’s choice of terminology is the obvious parallel between his
numbered Inventions and the numerical system used in cataloguing music. By
extension, it can be argued that in appropriating a term traditionally reserved for
music and literature, Klee intended to construct a conceptual framework in which
disparate images could be read as component parts of a visual whole that is
experienced and comprehended over time. In this regard his Opus I is not
unlike examples of Max Klinger’s print cycles. References in Klee’s letters
leave no doubt that he was familiar with Klinger’s numbered titles, which
do not necessarily indicate a chronological order, and his preference for
narratives that do not illustrate specific literary texts. In staunchly denying
Klinger’s influence, Klee may have been protesting too much. There is
always the possibility, however, that parallels between his Inventions and
Klinger’s prints might have resulted from a common model in Rudolphe
Töpffer’s ―picture-stories.’’

Töpffer’s Influence
Töpffer (1799-1846) was a Swiss caricaturist, writer, and pedagogue from
whom Klee inherited a penchant for satire and a facile command of the language of
physiognomy. The best known of Töpffer’s picture-stories is the Histoire de Monsieur
Cr ´epin, in which Klee would have found a prototype for the poses of the two figures
in Two Gentlemen Bowing. In Töpffer’s 1845 ―Essay on Physiognomy,’’ he set out
the special advantages of the picture-story over literature or ―literature-in-pictures,’’
citing in particular the lively appeal of visual images and the unique capacity of line
drawings to communicate meaning with clarity and conciseness. Like Töpffer’s
picture-stories, Klee’s Inventions substitute indeterminate yet richly expressive visual
symbols for the wealth of descriptive detail found in literary word painting, or in the
pictorial narratives of William Hogarth and other artists who had perfected the skill of
narrating stories in pictures. Klee departed from Töpffer’s models in substituting pithy
titles for accompanying textual legends and in eliminating any indication of a
chronological sequence. Most significantly, Klee eschewed Töpffer’s popularized
social satires in favour of what he called ―a satire in the grand style.’’ In all of these
respects his Opus I perpetuates a tradition of visual narrative initiated by Jacques
Callot’s Caprices, and continued in graphic cycles of the same title by Giovanni
Battista Tiepolo and Francisco de Goya.
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Goya’s Graphics
In 1905, as he was completing the etchings that constitute his OpusI, Klee
announced that he intended to ―turn his eyes toward Spain where
Goyas grow.’’ In fact, the previous year he had already had the opportunity to study
Goya’s graphic works in the Munich Kupferstichkabinett. If not immediately, at least
in retrospect, Klee would have recognized in Goya’s Caprices an antecedent to his
Opus I. Like Goya’s Caprices, Klee’s Inventions are self-contained tableaux, each
depicting types and incidents that collectively constitute a nonlinear narrative. In
visual terms, such narratives are as structurally expandable as Honour ´e de
Balzac’s Human Comedy and thematically no less grand and sweeping. The
individual Inventions that make up Klee’s Opus I are interdependent but not
chronologically sequential, a relationship that is reinforced by the fact that the
images are not presented in a bound codex. Just as a loose-leaf arrangement
obviates a strict temporal sequence, unspecified spatial settings allow the viewer to
place the images in any number of cultural and historical contexts. Because
Klee’s visual narrative is not bound by restrictions of time or place, and is
both structurally and thematically open-ended, it engages the viewer in the
ongoing production of a constantly changing narrative of human aspirations
and limitations.

A Collaborative Effort
Although Klee considered the unconventional Opus I his most technically
accomplished and original work to date, he conceded in a letter to
his fiancée Lily Stumpf that his reach had exceeded his grasp when it came
to expressing complex poetic ideas in purely visual terms. Scaling back
his ambitions, he then tried his hand at illustrating a narrative poem by his
friend Hans Bloesch. This represented an about-face for Klee, who in 1901
had brashly declared that that he would stoop to churning out illustrations
only as a last resort for earning income. Once he embarked on the collaboration with
Bloesch in 1908, he modified his position, admitting that:
―the question occurred to me whether I too might not illustrate a beautiful book
someday??’’ Klee’s change of mind was no doubt influenced by
his personal and professional relationship with Bloesch. In 1900 he had
contributed a cover drawing of a head in profile to Bunte Bl ¨atter, a volume
of verses by Bloesch and five other aspiring writers. When Bloesch undertook
editorial duties for the Berner Fremdenblatt from 1903 until 1906, he
engaged Klee to write theatre and concert reviews. Despite this promising beginning,
their next cooperative venture did not progress beyond the
planning stages.

Bloesch’s ―Der Musterb ¨urger’’ was never published during his lifetime,
although copies are available in various forms. Structured according to a calendrical
model, it begins with a sonnet entitled ―Neujahr’’ and proceeds with rhymed
quatrains grouped into sections corresponding to the months of the year. Klee’s
illustrations to ―Der Musterb
¨urger’’ are as tentative and
ultimately unsuccessful as
the poem itself an
assessment he must have
shared since he did not
accord the drawings
numbers in his oeuvre
catalogue. The failure of
the drawings as a series of
illustrations to a single text
lies for the most part in a
lack of stylistic unity.
Paradoxically, this very
absence of consistency within the ensemble is what makes the individual drawings
useful as visual documents of Klee’s early experiments with the illustrative potential
of various forms of graphic expression. In some drawings forms are rendered with
broken, sketchy strokes, in others with densely concentrated marks, while still others
anticipate the nervous scrawls of Klee’s illustrations to Candide. The elongated
figure types in Klee’s illustration of a passage on page thirty-two of Bloesch’s poem
(1908) also look ahead to the Candide drawings. The word S ¨ANGERBUND
identifies the figures as members of a choral group, thus explaining the notes
projecting from their open mouths. Emblazoned on a banner that ripples across the
lower quarter of the page, the quotation from Bloesch’s text is contained
within its own frame and occupies proportionately less space than the
image. Here, as in the other illustrations, Klee was attempting to forge
a dynamic spatial relationship between word and image, but the relationship does
not rise above a conventional correspondence between a drawing
and its title.
Over the years Klee would continue to explore the various ways that visual
images relate to verbal texts and vice versa, but at least one issue relating to
illustration was resolved once and for all with the ―Musterb ¨urger’’ drawings.
Illustrating two lines from page twenty-six that refer to state-subsidized housing for
pensioners, Klee initially placed a single figure in front of Switzerland’s House of
Parliament, identified as such by its distinctive cupola-topped facade with a Swiss
flag flying from the central tower. He subsequently crossed through the architectural
setting, marking it VOID, and eliminated it altogether in a second drawing to the
same passage. Although entirely appropriate to the satirical tone of Bloesch’s poem,
the specificity of the setting introduced an external referent, thus limiting the potential
meaning of the illustration. By avoiding specificity of place in his later illustrations, as
he had earlier in his Opus I, Klee would create an opening between textual sources
and visual images that allows the reader/viewer to participate in the fluid, ongoing
process of constructing meaning.

Painting Methodology
Compound technique
In 1984 the Metropolitan Museum of Art received a gift of ninety Paul Klee
paintings, drawings and watercolours. Seventy-eight of these are classified as
drawings. While this collection yielded much information about Klee's unique working
procedures, including his often unusual techniques and materials, it also raised
some vexing conservation questions. One, in particular, demanded attention—given
the compound structure of a typical Klee drawing, how does a conservator determine
an appropriate conservation treatment for it?

Soon it became apparent that many fellow conservators had similar concerns
over the treatment of so-called "compound" drawings—that is, a drawing mounted by
the artist to a—"secondary" support which conveys both aesthetic and historic
information. It was decided that a collaborative approach involving several
conservators with experience in treating Klee drawings would be the best way to
arrive at an answer.

Most people are aware that Paul Klee systematically mounted his drawings on
paper to secondary supports of stiff cardstock. Drawings and paintings on bits of
burlap, even canvas scavenged from downed WWI airplanes, and other unusual
substrates were likewise mounted. Klee began to mount his drawings to secondary
supports around 1903 and continued to mount them until his death in 1940; in fact,
an unmounted Paul Klee drawing is an exception rather than the rule in his work. So
much so, that when a single unmounted sheet is encountered one should
immediately examine its verso for tell-tale signs of previous mounting.
While some information is available on Klee's working techniques, scarcely
any concerns his drawings as art objects, that is to say, two sheets of paper
aesthetically related as well as physically adhered to one another. A quick scan of
Klee literature reveals that most authors have been concerned with Klee's images as
they relate to his colour theories, his symbolism, his interest in poetry, music and
nature and his teaching methodology. This lack of information was greatly alleviated
by Paul Klee's son, Felix, who answered our questions pertaining to the actual
construction and structure of a typical Klee drawing in February 1986.

Felix Klee's recollections along with a close reading of his father's diaries
provided insight into Paul Klee's method of mounting his drawings and what part this
procedure played in his daily working routine. In addition, as many Klee drawings
were examined as possible, with close attention paid to the drawing (primary
support) and its mount (secondary support), their method of attachment, and, most
important, the relationship between the two.

This relationship between the primary and secondary supports, obviously, is

the first issue to be dealt with before treating any compound work of art. In the case
of Klee drawings, four factors contribute to the importance of the secondary
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Diaries and catalogues

Starting in 1911 Klee began to systematically record all his works into a work
catalogue. By the time of his death over 9000 works of art in all media were
recorded. When he began the work catalogue he also recorded works done prior to
that time, for example, a portrait of his son Felix carries the date of 1908 followed by
the catalogue number 73. For each work, Klee entered the date, catalogue number,
title and a description of the technique he used. After 1925 he replaced the numbers
with a code combining letters and numbers to disguise the enormous number of
drawings produced in a single year.

1. Klee would mount his drawings to secondary supports which were then
inscribed with the date, catalogue number and sometimes title. This is what
can be considered Klee's standard presentation format. In this sense, the
secondary support serves as a record
keeping or informational device. In a
broader sense, this scrupulous
procedure of mounting and recording his
works implies that Klee did not consider
them officially finished until he had done

His diaries support this idea that the

mounting of his drawings was a routine
part of his working procedure as well as
the final step in their creation. He writes
of accumulating ten or more and then
mounting them all at once or of setting aside a morning just for mounting
watercolours. He writes with great satisfaction of immediately framing and
hanging a painting on paper with which he was particularly pleased. As for his
paintings, a visitor to his Dusseldorf studio wrote,".., a painting was
complete only when the frame was finished. So it was not merely an 'art
object' but a complete totality." That the cardstock mounts, as intimately
related to the drawings as their frames, should enjoy equal status does not
seem unrealistic.

Aesthetic and Decorative sense

1. In addition to their record keeping role, Klee's secondary
supports also served an aesthetic or decorative function. While simple black
lines are the most familiar decorative touches, Klee also used bands of
coloured gouache and ink, strips of gold foil and metallic paint to enhance the
presentation of his drawings. In two 1921 watercolours he explored the effects
of his current colour theories by inserting complementary coloured papers
below each drawing. A close look at the painted borders of some drawings
confirms that the artist mounted the drawings first and then decorated the
mount. The mount was, therefore, the official presentation format for the
piece, including its proportions. It would appear that Klee cut each secondary
support to complement the size of the drawing. No two are alike, implying that
Klee did not choose a convenient standard size. The proportions of the
mount, therefore, are intended to enhance the drawing in the same way as
the decorative bands which surround it. One can put forward the suggestion
that Klee drawings were not meant to be covered up by mats which hide their
true proportions nor should they even be put into frames of different
dimensions. The idea that the viewer should see the secondary support in full
has considerable ramifications when a Klee drawing is reproduced in
catalogues or slides. When the piece is cropped to the image only, all
indications of the artist's carefully chosen presentation format, not to mention
scale, are denied the viewer.

2. Finally, Klee mounted his drawings for the very mundane reason of thriftiness.
By decorating the mounts and using them as the presentation format, he was
able to save money on exhibition costs.

The method Paul Klee used to mount his drawings plays a significant role in their
"look" and, to a large extent, determines how they will be treated. As discussed, Paul
Klee would routinely mount his drawings as part of his working procedure.
Examination of the works indicate that the adhesives most frequently chosen were
an animal glue and a starch or flour paste
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Mounting of Drawings:
Klee's diaries suggest that the artist was content to reach for whatever was on
hand, as well. In 1918, while Klee was serving in the German military near Augsburg,
he wrote, “I mounted six of my watercolours, right here, and in so doing used
up my cardboard (and my official government paste)."

At home, the routine mounting of drawings was an activity which his son,
Felix, remembers well. He recalls how his father would cook white flour to make
paste, which he kept in a bowl for one or two days until it spoiled. When he needed
more he simply cooked up more. Felix Klee describes his father as both a handyman
and a craftsman. His paste making, like his meticulously decorated mounts, reflects
this nature, but, as his son is quick to point out, it was also one more way for the
family to economize.

Drawings were attached to secondary supports generally in two ways:

 In a random or regularly spaced configuration of adhesive dabs, this will be

called spot attachment.
 Mounted overall with a thin layer of adhesive, which appears most often to be
thinned starch paste.

When drawings are mounted by spot attachment, they do not lie flat. In some
cases, the undulations which result from spot attachment coincide with the drawing's
style and do not interfere with its appreciation. Or the undulations may have come
about naturally before the drawing was even mounted, a reasonable assumption
when we read in his diaries, "On a misty autumn morning, I spread the large,
humid sheets of-Ingres paper out on the gravel in the garden..."

Some buckling, then, is to be expected, but when aggravated by fluctuations in

climatic conditions, the paper's topography is pulled into exaggerated draws and
distortions around each adhesive spot. It would seem safe to conjecture that, while
some shrinkage of the adhesive occurred upon drying and aging, it is doubtful that
the resulting distortions reached the extremes we sometimes see.

Drawings mounted overall remain in plane with their secondary support and
generally do not seem to suffer from lifting or bubbling. Klee's meticulousness is
reflected in the fact that one rarely sees any adhesive oozing out from below the

There does not seem to be a reason for the artist choosing spot attachment or
overall mounting. Both are used for drawings of similar style and are used
interchangeably throughout his lifetime. Whatever the method used, however, the
choice certainly affects the final "look" of the piece.
Bold Use of Colours
"Colour and I are one."

Klee often incorporated letters and

numerals into his paintings, as in
Once Emerged from the Gray of Night.
These, part of Klee's complex language of
symbols and signs, are drawn from the
unconscious and used to obtain a poetic
amalgam of abstraction and reality. He
wrote that "Art does not reproduce the
visible, it makes visible," and he pursued
this goal in a wide range of media using an
amazingly inventive battery of techniques.
Line and colour predominate with Klee, but
he also produced series of works that
explore mosaic and other effects.

Spanning the artist's entire career, the works in this exhibition illustrate Klee's
use of pictorial elements to explore both the practices of art and the theory behind
them. In subsequent projects Klee implemented various mark-making styles and
colour techniques to enhance the metaphorical potential in his abstract forms. Lines
are never just lines — Klee deliberately made clear distinctions between them.
Through these studies in lines and colour the artist suggested a range of emotions
not revealed in the naturalistic depiction of the human form. Underlying the whimsical
nature in many of his works is a studied and systematic approach that guided their
formation. Those on view are not simply drawings, prints, and paintings, but also
building blocks in Klee's intellectual and artistic
development: experiments through which he
taught himself, and eventually others, about the
formal characteristics and potential symbolism of
abstract art.

Klee painted with intense rapidity and

sureness and it is impossible to indicate the full
breadth of his range, his unfailing magic, and
his poetry. Diana in the Autumn Wind gives a
hint of his sense of movement. Leaves flying in
a moist breeze are, at the same time, the Virgin
goddess on the hunt, and yet also a fashionably
dressed woman from Klee's social circle. The
eeriness of the dying year takes shape before
our eyes and beyond all this are lovely balancing forms that exist in their own
right. This work is strangely pale for Klee, yet the gentle pallor is demanded by
the theme: he hints that Diana is disintegrating under the force of autumnal

Material Used
The materials chosen for the secondary support, like the methods used to
attach the drawings to them, are consistent throughout Klee's life. While there are
some exceptions, by and large drawings are mounted to cardstock. The term
"cardstock" was chosen to differentiate this material from cardboard,-which implies a
stiffer paper product. Cardstock, or more properly Bristol, is thinner and more

The cardstock used by Klee is generally of two types:

 A multi-plied board made from laminating several sheets of the same paper.
 A sandwich of two better quality endpapers covering a core of compressed
ground wood pulp. This type of board, sometimes called "filled Bristol", is only
slightly thicker than the multi-plied type, but is still lightweight and flexible.

In both types the end-papers are slightly or highly polished and generally non-

The watercolour entitled

Wachsendegras (Watching the Grass
Grow) was removed from its secondary
support to which it was entirely adhered in
order to isolate it from and treat its
secondary support. Klee often used the
reverses of older works of art for his
drawings especially during WWI when he
was in military service. In this particular
work dated 1917, he painted on one half of
the reverse on an earlier intaglio print. The
L-shaped indentation is the plate mark that appears darker because of the pooled
watercolour. He incorporated foxing that existed in the print into the design as stoma-
like marks on the blades of grass.
Digitally signed by

Burhan Ul Haq
DN: cn=Burhan Ul Haq,
o=College of EME, ou,

Ul Haq
email=primodebonair, c=PK
Date: 2009.02.07
11:05:20 +05'00'
At the time of this treatment, separation of the primary from the secondary
support was viewed as necessary for its long term preservation. It is questionable,
though, that this treatment would be repeated, i.e., the disassembling of a compound
drawing, for the following reason. There is no evidence that the mount is actually
causing damage to the primary support. The presence of another work on the
reverse is really not justification to warrant its removal.

After looking at a large number of Klee works that have been either spot
attached or overall mounted, none seem to have suffered from acid migration.
Perhaps this can be attributed to the overall better quality and surface preparation of
the endpapers of the cardstock which act as physical barriers. This idea is supported
by the observation that the versos of the drawings (where it was possible to examine
them) have not been discoloured from being in prolonged contact with their
cardstock mounts.

A phenomenon frequently encountered is the situation where the area of the

secondary support protected from light by the drawing is lighter than its exposed
borders. It would appear that UV radiation dramatically increases discolouration by
catalysing the degradation of certain components within the cardstock. It seems
logical to suggest that when UV radiation is masked out by the drawing and, thus,
prevented from striking the cardstock below, chemical reactions leading to its
discolouration and embrittlement are significantly lessened.

While the rationale that dismantling compound drawings for protective and
preventative reasons is valid based upon our observations, such a procedure should
not be routine for Klee's drawings. The only reason then to dismantle these works
would be because of physical damage and extremely disfiguring distortions caused
by tensions in spot attachment, such as the type seen in Bauchtanz .

Treatment by Conservative critics

Klee's drawings arrive in a conservation laboratory for a variety of reasons—

many for the damages described above. A significant number come to a
conservator's attention because of disfiguring draws around the adhesive dabs
present in spot attached drawings. The extreme tension set up along the interface
between the attached and unattached areas necessitates treatment both for
aesthetic and therapeutic reasons. The following case history deals with the
treatment of a spot attached drawing.

When proposing a treatment for a Klee drawing, it is necessary to consider the

following factors before making treatment decisions:

1. Klee's drawings are compound works of art. The secondary support is an

integral part of the work. An aesthetic message is sent to the viewer by its
size, its decorations and its inscriptions. In addition, it provides historic
evidence not only of Klee's working procedure but of his family's financial
situation as well. As a routine part in the creation of the piece, the secondary
support can be seen as similar to an epreuve d'artist, the artist's gesture of

2. Klee often used unorthodox papers, for example discarded etchings, old
prints, newspaper pages or combinations of papers. In fact, it would appear
that the papers of the drawings themselves are often more problematic than
the cardstock to which they are mounted. Foxed and cockled papers were
sometimes purposefully chosen by the artist and incorporated into the design.
The dot patterns of spot attachment as well as the cockled almost ruffled
edges of some of his papers were a direct result of the artist's technique and
had to have been accepted by him.

3. The typical mount does not appear to cause deterioration of the primary
support. The adhesives also do not seem to promote deterioration. The
localized tensions, however, that develop around adhesive spots do cause
damage in some instances. Fluctuations in environment aggravate this
problem, causing additional or more severe distortions.

Paul Klee’s art was, and is, a thing unto itself. Nobody before or since has
created art exactly (or inexactly) like his, and the not least astonishing part of the
matter is how quietly, how unassumingly, he did it, yet how everlastingly strong his
presence – his heritage – is, just for that reason: its modesty of voice, scale, and

When it comes to complex constructions such as Klee drawings, there is great

value in collaboration and consultation with other conservators. The subtleties of
Klee drawings and the impact of their treatment become much more obvious when
comparing a group than when dealing with an isolated example. The importance of
seeing a large collection of an artist's work is pivotal to our understanding of how the
works should look. At first glance, one might naturally think that spot adhered
drawings would look better if they were flatter or that any drawing adhered to a non-
archival secondary support should be immediately disassembled.

There are over 5,000 catalogued Klee drawings, a large number of which are in
this country. As a rule of thumb, minimal treatment, proper housing and exhibition, in
particular reducing exposure to UV radiation, lessen the potential for problems and
leave the work closer to the artist's original intent.

Klee’s sustained engagement with narrative over his lifetime would seem to be at
odds with a professed commitment to the modernist agenda. The legacy of
modernism’s bias against story telling was summed up by Walter Benjamin when he
observed that ―there is embarrassment all around when the wish to hear a story is
expressed.’’ Any expressed nostalgia for pictorial narratives would have elicited the
same degree of discomfort in the Cubist, Dadaist, and Surrealist circles where
the defining characteristics of modernism in the visual arts took shape. In
public statements such as ―Creative Credo,’’ Klee declared his allegiance to
modernism even as he was perpetuating the stubbornly persistent narrative
tradition in his visual practice. That he was neither embarrassed nor apologetic about
this apparent paradox could indicate a pragmatic decision to ignore it - or, more
likely, a considered effort to rethink the role of narrative in contemporary art. An
analysis of pertinent examples of Klee’s work will show how he reinterpreted the
narrative tradition by integrating elements of the spatial and temporal arts, and by
using line as a rhetorical device independent of its descriptive function.

Klee was a voracious reader whose understanding of narrative writing was

grounded in a comprehensive knowledge of literary history. Judging from the
contents of his library, the titles cited in his Diaries and letters, and the narrative
situations referred to in his drawings and paintings, his literary tastes were eclectic
but firmly rooted in the canon of western literature. In his own works Klee interpreted
a range of narrative genres, from the epic poem to the modern novel, and any
number of narrative voices, with a pronounced proclivity for the ironic. Titles such as
Hoffmannesque Scene and Scene in the Style of Strindberg and their Rhetoric of
Visual Narrative corresponding images point to Klee’s interest in the ―how as well as
the what‖ of narrative construction. If there is one point of agreement among
narrative theorists across disciplines, it is that all narratives consist of what is told
(the story or content) and how the story is told (the discourse or form). Although Klee
gave equal weight to these two components, the uniqueness of his visual narratives
lies for the most part in his innovations in the domain of what he called “pictorial

Any effort to characterize Klee’s complex visual narratives must begin

with the recognition that he applied no single narrative formula. His book
illustrations and other visual narratives are unlike the “anti-narratives’’ of
Max Beckmann and the “non-narratives’’ of Bathos that James Elkins has
cited as evidence of modern narrative in its initial stages of self-erasure. Nor
do Klee’s narratives fit neatly into any of the schemata developed by literary
theorists. Even those images that might seem to conform to the conventions
of straightforward pictorial illustration skirt or subvert these conventions in
various ways. Klee’s two sets of published book illustrations correspond to
aspects of the literary narratives they visually paraphrase, but his pictorial
retelling was in both cases so transformative that the images in effect constitute new
texts. The series of images he called his Opus I and The Infernal
Park, which respectively bracket the beginning and end of his professional
practice, are multi-image visual texts that depend neither on an imitative
relationship between literary and visual imagery for their meaning, nor on
chronological order or episodic continuity for their structural coherency.
These nonlinear visual narratives share at least one feature in common
with the books containing Klee’s illustrations: they are doubly coded, being
both representational and discursive, and thus challenge the distinctions
between visual and verbal modes of expression so famously articulated in
Aristotle’s Poetics.

Whether they illustrate an accompanying text or are independent of any single

literary source, Klee’s visual narratives are all multileveled, always elaborating on
their own process of production. As such, they can be read as subtexts of a more
expansive visual narrative that had parallels in the modern “process novel.’’ Like
many writers working contemporaneously, Klee identified his ongoing artistic
production with a process of becoming. His preoccupation with process is evident in
all his writings, which range from the epistolary and the pedagogical to the poetic.
Similarly, every pictorial image he produced was on one level a visual record of its
own making. An examination of selected works characterized by a narrative modality
will introduce Klee’s narrative of process and clarify the relationship between rhetoric
and content in his visual narratives.

Klee's enthusiasm and experimentation continually evolved art. Klee believed that
colour has proven to be a broad way to interest people. Colour really resonates with
just about everyone, across skill levels and technical savvy. We listen to them and
inspire them, and they speak to us and inspire us.

Burhan Digitally signed by Burhan Ul Haq

DN: cn=Burhan Ul Haq,
o=College of EME, ou,

Ul Haq
com, c=PK
Date: 2009.02.07 11:03:32 +05'00'

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