PAUL KLEE – the otherness of art

Bern, Switzerland

I remember the clock tower in Bern, Switzerland, the trams and the almost Piedmontese arches in the architecture.  On the way to the Paul Klee Foundation, I grabbed a cup of coffee at a café where there was an unusually large photograph of Albert Einstein on the wall.  It is in Bern, the café owner informed me, that Einstein rounded off the Theory of Relativity.

Albert Einstein, 1904

In the Paul Klee Foundation I stood before the original paintings.  As a twelve-year-old I saw them in an art book, the beginning of a lifelong interest.

Blue Pyramid

A Swiss-German, Paul Klee was a musician, poet, academic and a philosopher in art theory.  His work has been linked with various art movements, but, as has often been said, his work resists any simplistic opinions.  His art is an otherness.


His book “On Modern Art” (1925) has been compared with the writings of Leonardo da Vinci.

“Senecio”, 1922

When his art was mocked, along with many other “decadent” artists in 1937 in Nazi Germany, Klee returned to Switzerland.  This rejection weighed heavily on his mind until his death in 1940 at the age of 61.

Paul Klee, 1911

With Klee’s paintings and especially his drawings you are never far from irony, even a playful spirit.  The captions of his canvases are cryptic, witty.  And for me — I’m supposed to be colour blind — he is a master of colour.  The calling to colour came to him during a reconnaissance in Tunisia.  He became a leading figure amongst modernists in the creative use of colour, breaking long traditions.  Picasso himself had great respect for what Klee did.

The Garden at Lu – , 1939

I sat for a long time looking at “The Garden at Lu – ”  The icon forms rising from dream blue is for me one of the most peaceful images in the storms of modern art.

Fire in the Evening, 1929

“I will not be understood in this world,” he said, probably depressed by the events of the late-1930s, the last years of his life.  But if appreciation and love of his work may be seen as understanding, then Paul Klee was, with respect, wrong.

Nocturnal Growth


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

January, 2018



Werner Haftmann :  The Mind and Work of Paul Klee.  Faber and Faber. London, 1967.

Will Grohman :  Paul Klee.  Lund Humphries.  London, 1969.




Paintings by Klee from Will Grohman : Paul Klee

Bern – TourismSwiss

Albert Einstein –





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