Paul Klee, Untitled (detail), 1914, watercolour and ink on paper mounted on cardboard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1984 (1984.315.5)

Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Discover the magical world of Paul Klee, one of the greatest artists and visionaries of the 20th century.

A towering figure in European Modern art, Swiss-German artist Paul Klee (1879–1940) created a body of work that is unparalleled in imagination and skill.

Klee’s meticulous yet whimsical approach to art-making in which colour, expressiveness and poetry prevail, is highlighted in this exhibition of 75 drawings, watercolours and paintings from the prestigious Berggruen Klee Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest collection of works by Paul Klee in North America.

This selection spans the artist’s entire career — from childhood, through his most prolific period as a teacher at the celebrated Bauhaus, to his death in 1940. 

Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection from The Metropolitan Museum of Art is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in association with the National Gallery of Canada.


Friday, November 16, 2018 Sunday, March 17, 2019


National Gallery of Canada Special Exhibitions Galleries
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4


The Exhibition

Klee lived and worked in tumultuous times, including two World Wars. Today, his name is synonymous with other avant-garde contemporaries, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Klee’s Bauhaus colleague, Wassily Kandinsky.

The Berggruen collection is largely comprised of small-scale works on paper, which will be grouped chronologically. The exhibition begins with Klee’s production of vibrant watercolours from Tunisia, which set his artistic course for years to come. The majority of the works on view date from his most productive years at the Bauhaus: a progressive school for Modernist design, where he taught for ten years.

Klee’s humorous, innovative and magical works invite in-depth viewing, due to their intimate size and varied technique. The exhibition also features both adult- and youth-specific labels to help engage families.

Experimental Space

Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection from The Metropolitan Museum of Art includes a special room for experimental artistic exploration, inviting visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in the colourful universe of Paul Klee. By manipulating two- and three-dimensional shapes inspired by the artist’s works and colour palette, adults and children can construct large-scale wall paintings or free-standing creations. Visitors can also enjoy a selection of music by some of Klee’s favorite composers, at a special listening station.

Share Your Photos: #PlayInKlee

About the Artist

In 1879, Paul Klee was born near the town of Bern, Switzerland. Although his parents — a Swiss singer and German music teacher — encouraged him to focus on music in his early years, upon completing high school he moved to Munich to begin his art studies. In Munich, Klee made the acquaintance of members of Der Blaue Reiter [The Blue Rider], a loose association of artists seeking to imbue art with spiritual values. In 1912, Klee took part in the group’s second exhibition.

A trip to Tunisia in 1914 provided the impetus for a marked shift to abstraction in Klee’s practice. In 1920, he was invited to teach at Germany’s Bauhaus, a progressive school for Modernist design — first in Weimar, then in Dessau. It was during this time that Klee matured as an artist and achieved international fame.

Following more than ten years at the Bauhaus, Klee’s final years were marked by political turmoil, which eventually led him to leave the school in 1931. His subsequent tenure as professor of painting at the Düsseldorf art academy was cut short when he became a target of the Nazi party’s campaign against “Degenerate Art.” After being dismissed from his post, Klee left Germany for Switzerland, where he remained until his untimely death in 1940.

Paul Klee, Bern, 1911. Photo: Unknown. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Klee Family Donation

Klee’s world is not an abstract world any more than Klee is an abstract painter […] It is a world of mystery and fantasy, of dreams and whims, and yet it is a world that is never gratuitous and certainly not obvious.

– Heinz Berggruen, 1986

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