• Duration of the Exhibition31. October 2008 - 08. February 2009
  • VenueNeue Nationalgalerie
  • The exhibition was made possible by the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie and supported by E.ON.

“All will be Klee,” noted Paul Klee (1879–1940) in his diary at the outset of his career. And true to his word, he did indeed go on to create an unmistakable body of work, a complex and fascinating universe that justifies his status as one of the most important artists of the early 20th century.

The bizarre gaiety, fascinating ambiguity and lyrical and poetic force of expression of his works, in which the abstract and figurative are united, make him one of the greatest individualists among his modern contemporaries. At the same time, Klee was an absolute master of the universal: he understood art as being a mirror of the cosmos, whose creative principles he saw reflected in all aspects of life. The totality of his work presents itself as a universal encyclopedia of humankind, compressed into miniature: man’s progression through life, his environment, his culture and his beliefs, his various emotional worlds as well as all the creative and destructive forces that drive him.

The exhibition accompanies the visitor on a grand journey through Klee’s universe. Spread over fifteen separate thematic sections, around 250 masterpieces from all periods of his oeuvre provide a very palpable sense of Paul Klee’s pictorial cosmos. The human life cycle, from birth to death, forms the beginning and end of the tour around the exhibition. Between these two poles of existence come childhood, Eros and the role of parents as well as the various states of being such as war and sickness. Theatre and music, architecture and writing serve to highlight the many facets of cultural life. The world of animals and nature broadens the perspective on earthly forms of existence, while excursions to distant lands stake out the geographical expanse of the globe. Each chapter to the exhibition profiles Klee’s work chronologically and allows specific aspects of his biography to come to light.

Further to this, a key room in the exhibition posits Klee in his relation to nine other artists who served as points of reference for him in the development of his career and the way he saw himself as an artist, among them Robert Delaunay, Franz Marc, Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso. This brief thematic digression in the exhibition enhances The Klee Universe by giving it an aspect which has not been placed on view in such a context before.

The exhibition was held on the lower floor of the Neue Nationalgalerie, whose architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, himself collected works by Klee. Exactly 85 years after the first ever Klee exhibition in the Nationalgalerie, then on view in 1923 in the Kronprinzenpalais on Unter den Linden, The Klee Universe presents a comprehensive panorama of the world of pictures and ideas of this great artist of the twentieth century. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of the great Klee collector, Heinz Berggruen, who followed the preparations with great enthusiasm right up until his death in 2007.