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Exhibition / Museum

Paul Klee

Irony at Work

6 Apr - 1 Aug 2016

The event is over

Late night opening: Thursdays till 11 pm

The Centre Pompidou offer a new survey of the work of Paul Klee, 47 years after the last big French retrospective at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in 1969. Bringing together around 250 works from major museums around the world, the Zentrum Paul Klee and private collections, this themed retrospective offers a new look at this pioneer of modernism, one of the great figures of 20th-century art.

Staging an exhibition of Klee’s work is a challenge: the creator of almost 10,000 works, the unclassifiable artist par excellence, he seems to escape every attempt to pin him down. Characterized by a certain duality, an ambivalence, a mind all oppositions, he presents himself in turn as god and as comedian. The exhibition at the Centre Pompidou takes as its theme “romantic irony’ and its corollaries of satire and parody. Fruit of early German Romanticism, romantic irony denotes the reflexive, self-conscious detachment of the creative process. Klee’s works can thus be understood as a sort of game, an attempt to say the unsayable despite the basic incapacity to do so, the artist exploring the means that art gives him to achieve his ambitions. This approach illuminates Klee’s relationship to his peers and to contemporary art movements, showing how he assimilates or appropriates these influences to his own ends, creating a unique mode of artistic expression.

The abstract watercolour Laughing Gothic of 1915, on loan from MoMA, New York, offers a good illustration. If one notes a resemblance to Robert Delaunay’s painting St. Severin 1, Klee seems in his choice of title to be mocking the debates on the psychology of style that were taking place in Germany at that time. Associating the Gothic with laughter to designate a composition inspired by the work of a French Cubist is a way for Klee to mark his detachment.

The exhibition is organised in seven thematic sections that look at the successive stages in Klee’s development as an artist: the satiric beginnings; Cubism; mechanical theatre (in tune with Dada and Surrealism); Constructivism (the years at Bauhaus Dessau); looking backward (the 1930s); Picasso (his reception by Klee after the Zurich Picasso retrospective in 1932); the years of crisis (in the face of Nazism, war and illness). The exhibition brings together paintings, sculptures, drawings and underglass paintings, an outstanding selection of works, half of which have never been shown in France before. Among these rarely-seen masterpieces are two legendary watercolours from Walter Benjamin’s collection: Vorführung des Wunders and Angelus Novus.


6 Apr - 1 Aug 2016
11am - 9pm, every mondays, wednesdays, fridays, saturdays, sundays
6 Apr - 28 Jul 2016
11am - 11pm, every thursdays

Nocturne le jeudi (23h)


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