In 1939, the last year of his life, the Swiss born painter Paul Klee produced 1,200 works. 17 of Klee’s works were shown in the Nazi’s “Degenerate Art” show of 1937, and with the Nazi’s at the height of their power, Klee was forced to leave Germany, where he’d joined the faculty of Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus school in l921. Previously, he’d been influenced by Der Blaue Reiter group, of which Kandinsky was a member. Der Blaue Reiter, which Klee joined in l913, emphasized the expressive power of color. The current show at the Musée de l’Orangerie describes Klee as “a complex character who combined ‘primitive’ lyricism with a passion for systems.” In l920, Klee wrote in his Credo, “Now the relativity of visible things is made clear…” The world Klee would invent represented a dialectic between the opposing forces of color and geometry, underlined by the vector-like arrows that are a constant presence in his work. Having fled Germany, Klee also had to contend with a serious autoimmune illness, scleroderma, during his last year Yet these later works are some of the most powerful in the show, which was taken from the collection of Ernst Beyeler. The color is vivid and the use of line even more forceful, distilled and even ominous in these pieces. Klee illustrated Voltaire’s Candide in l911, but after he translated Robert Delaunay’s 1912 essay, Light, he commented that color had opened up a new world to him. However abstract these last works are, illness and exile give them the immediacy of the social commentary that initiated Klee’s career.
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]