London wore many coats yesterday. The day started bright and sunny and was business as usual but by lunchtime showers took everyone by surprise. I started my day feeling foolish for carrying an umbrella but by lunchtime I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I walked across Millennium Bridge looking out onto the river and St Pauls. I was on my way to Tate Modern to see the surprises Paul Klee had for us all.
It has been years since I have seen more than a handful of his paintings so to be immersed in this historic body of work was a delight. Each period of Klee’s life, each direction of his work was chronologically displayed with not only the full information about his materials and methodology but also was clearly set into the history of that period. His time as tutor at the Bauhaus was a rich period where he experimented with style and content and use of colour and materials and it was most interesting to have this period also clearly set into the context of the political extremes experienced in Germany at that time. Art is always powerful when set in real time and to see an artist’s development and progress is exiting and inspiring.
As I walked through this big exhibition, some 12 rooms or so from memory, I was interested to hear other visitors’ comments. My eye was caught by a couple strolling around at the same speed as I was and I overheard them comment on “what a large show of small paintings it was”. And I looked again, for even though the works shouted out from the walls none of the works were actually very large. There were the first and founding colour explorations from his North African visit, his experimentation in method and style during his Bauhaus years, (in both cities) his slowing down at the beginning of his illness, and then his speeding up at the end with his deep felt and strongly voiced political response and even though these paintings felt huge and carried such weight they were not actually big paintings.
As always I was thrilled to see original works of art: there is a similar rush with live music, and I was humbled and inspired to see all this work, to see his notes in margins, to know that Paul Klee had actually framed some of these pieces himself and as I walked back across the river, now bathed in late January sun, I determined I would draw more and doodle more and hope to be always surprised by art.
Don’t miss this one. Check Tate Modern for opening times.