Master Klee! Teacher at the Bauhaus

The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius as a practical school for aspiring designers. The training was structured into a theory course on Formative Creation and a practical apprenticeship, in which the focus was on the design of objects and furniture as well as architecture.

Paul Klee was active at the Bauhaus as a lecturer – called master – between 1921 and 1931 beside Wassily Kandinsky, Lothar Schreyer or Oskar Schlemmer. During this time Klee wrote lecture notes on Pictorial Formation and made around 3’900 pages of teaching notes, which he described in its entirety as Teaching Notes on Pictorial Creation. He did not teach emerging artists, but as he said himself ”creators, working practitioners”. Like Walter Gropius he was convinced that art itself cannot be taught, but can only arise through intuition. The aim of his teaching was to convey to the students the fundamental principles of pictorial creation.
The exhibition Master Klee! is organised in accordance with the 24 chapters of Klee’s teaching. For each chapter a selection of the notes is displayed. Klee’s attitude is, that it is not the final form that is important, but the path to its achievement, which runs as a dominant idea through his teaching. He constantly emphasised that a form does not exist, but becomes. Therefore he researched its interior and its formation. Using existing growth phenomena in nature he illustrated particularly at the start of his teaching activity the forming of abstract constructions.
Klee’s lecture notes are not sketches of his works. He developed the teaching on the basis of his thoughts about his own artistic activity. Nevertheless his work and his teaching are two independent areas which occasionally come into contact with one another. So in some of his works Klee applied playfully the design processes he was teaching.
Five aspects are of great significance both in Klee’s work as well as in his teaching: Nature, colour, rhythm, movement and construction. A selection of works shows, that Klee was occupied with these themes already before, during and after his activity at the Bauhaus.
The exhibition marks the conclusion of a four-year research project. With the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF and the Paul-Klee Foundation of the Civic Community of Berne Klee’s Teaching Notes on Pictorial Creation could be revised and published in an Online-Data Base www.kleegestaltungslehre.zpk.org.

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