Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art
McMullen Museum of Art
September 1–December 9, 2012
Paul Klee (1895–1940) was an early twentieth-century painter known for his cerebral, introspective style. Born in Bern, Switzerland, Klee was a painting master at the renowned Bauhaus, a German school of art, design, and architecture. Also a respected theorist, Klee attracted the attention of many of the most prominent European philosophers of the twentieth century. As the artist himself acknowledged, Klee was, “perhaps, without really wanting to be, a philosopher.”
Professor John Sallis, in consultation with Professors Claude Cernuschi and Jeffery Howe, curated the exhibition Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art, which will be on display in the McMullen Museum this fall. The exhibition is the first to focus on the relationship between Klee’s artistic oeuvre and contemporary philosophical thought, exploring the ways in which Klee’s groundbreaking theories of nature, words, and music translate into form, line, and color in his artwork.
Klee completed over 9,000 works during his lifetime, and Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art represents his prolific output with a collection of more than 65 watercolors, drawings, etchings, illustrations, and oil paintings. In addition, the exhibition includes facsimiles of his complex notebooks and personal writings.
Klee was profoundly affected by his experiences with nature, and the exhibition explores how Klee’s early appreciation of interaction with the natural world affected his works and teaching style. His notes, sketchbooks, and diagrams from his Bauhaus classes (1921–1931) appear in the exhibition, providing insight into his multifaceted, complex philosophies. His themes include creation and visibility; the ways in which line, form, and point capture movement and balance; notions of fantasy and the imaginary in art; art’s relationship with words and music; and theories of existence.
The exhibition also covers a dark era of Klee’s career—his 1933 work depicting the Nazi invasion of Germany. Laden with violent imagery, these works portray Klee as an astute critic of society, particularly of political events that led to the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. The Nazi regime branded Klee’s art as “degenerate,” his work was denounced in the newspapers, and he was dismissed from his teaching position at the Düsseldorf Academy in Germany, prompting him to return to his hometown of Bern for the remainder of his life.
Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art concludes with a display of later works that bring the union between art and philosophy full circle. A 1940 sketch of a philosopher whimsically recalls Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, for example. As curator Sallis notes, Klee complicates the distinction between artist and philosopher “because [he] delves beneath the surface, because he seeks to make visible the hidden origination of things from their primal ground.”
The exhibition includes an audio tour and a theatre showing films depicting Klee’s life and works. The McMullen Museum has also published a catalogue with contributions from 15 prominent art historians and philosophers, with color reproductions of each work in the exhibition, as well as a new translation of Klee’s famous lecture, “On Modern Art.”
An international conference on Klee will be held at Boston College on October 17–19, featuring Peter Schubak in a concert performance of works inspired by Klee. All events are free of charge and open to the public. Visit http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/centers/ila/events/klee.html for more information on the conference and concert.
McMullen Museum of Art
Exhibition Hours and Tours:
September 1 – December 9, 2012
M – F: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sa – Su: 12 – 5 p.m.
Note: Extended hours and dates closed are listed at http://www.bc.edu/artmuseum
Free Docent Tours: Available on Sundays at 2:00 p.m. starting September 2.