From August 7, 2010, through January 16, 2011, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will showcase the exhibition Prints by Paul Klee (1946). Organized by John Zarobell, SFMOMA assistant curator, collections, exhibitions, and commissions, the exhibition features 21 works.
SFMOMA has had a longstanding commitment to the art of Paul Klee over its 75-year history. This exhibition re-creates a show of prints by the Swiss-born modernist held at the museum in 1946. At that time, Klee's work was little known outside of Europe; the exhibition was perceived as highly original, and the works seem no less fresh or innovative more than six decades later. The prints demonstrate how Klee, like many German Expressionist artists of the early 20th century, experimented with etching, drypoint, and lithography techniques in order to advance his exploration of pictorial symbolism.
Klee (1879–1940), born in Münchenbuchsee, just north of Bern, Switzerland's capital, grew up in a musical family and was himself a violinist. Ultimately he opted to study art and in 1900 trained with neoclassicist Franz von Stuck at the Munich Academy, where he first met painter Vasily Kandinsky. As was standard academic practice, his training included anatomy lessons and life drawing from the nude; he later spent seven months touring Italy, where he was exposed to early Christian and Byzantine art. In 1906 he married pianist Lili Stumpf and settled in Munich, then an important center for avant-garde art; their only child, Felix, was born there the following year. Klee's friendship with Kandinsky prompted him to join Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), an expressionist group pivotal to the development of abstract art. Later, at the invitation of founder Walter Gropius, Klee taught at the esteemed Bauhaus from 1920 to 1931; in 1931 he accepted a position at the Dusseldorf Academy, but was soon dismissed by the Nazis, who included 17 of his works in their infamous exhibition of "degenerate art," Entartete Kunst, in 1937. After a move to Switzerland in 1933, Klee developed the crippling collagen disease scleroderma, marked by a pathological thickening and hardening of the skin; he died from its complications in 1940.