Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Japan
It sounds like a magical meeting. The art of celebrated modernist painter Paul Klee. A small museum nestled in a beautiful Japanese garden. The vibrancy of the garden’s foliage melds with the lush color palette of Klee’s works. Magical, yes—and fitting, to say the least.
Japan’s Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art is showing an extensive collection of Klee’s colorfully vivid canvases until the end of August in its simply-titled exhibition, Paul Klee.
Born in 1879 to a family of musicians in Bern, Switzerland, Klee became a violinist at the city’s orchestra by the age of 11. A child prodigy of sorts, Klee long debated forgoing his musical origins and pursuing a career in painting.
It wasn’t until a trip to Tunisia that he decided to devote his full efforts towards the visual arts. Astonished by the quality of and intensity of light he observed on his trip to this North African locale, Klee began to see the world as a sort of harmonious music of colors. The artist was famously noted as saying, “Color has taken possession of me; no longer do I have to chase after it, I know that it has hold of me forever…Color and I are one. I am a painter.”
From there, Klee traveled to Southern Europe and the Orient, capturing the colors and smells of the places he visited in delicate and colorful compositions in which objects such as camels, cats, palm trees and North African houses become mysteriously shaped objects floating in a dreamy, magical world. According to Klee, his art was “not about reproducing what is visible but, on the contrary, about making visible what is not.” Klee saw a beautiful music that lay hidden just behind reality and wanted to convey it to the rest of us.
For Klee, art was like a tree. Nature and reality were the roots, the artist was the trunk, and the art itself was the leaves. As the thought went, if leaves do not look like roots, why should art look like reality? Such a bold point of view made Klee a big hit among the surrealists and cubists in Pre-World War II Germany. He became friends with many avant garde figures like Kandisky (with whom he founded the “Blue Raiter” group) and began teaching at the Bauhaus.
But his unconventional ideas also made him the target of the Nazi Government. The Nazis denounced his art as “the work of a sick man” and he was one of the unwilling stars of the infamous Exhibition of Degenerate Art produced by the German Government.
Today Klee is celebrated around the world and his pieces sell for upwards of 7 million dollars. The exhibition held at the Kawamura Museum plays host to over 150 works coming from Germany (notably from the Kunnstsammlung Nordheim, home to Westfallen’s noted collection of Klee art) and presents a unique opportunity see the canvases of this artist in a refreshingly new setting. Emmanuel Guillaud
June 24 – August 20, 2006
631 Sakado, Sakura-shi, Chiba 285-8505, Japan
Photo: Paul Klee, Red and White Domes, 1914. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.MySpace Art Chat