This week in our A–Z of Paul Klee, curator Matthew Gale looks at how the Bauhaus teacher kept a diary for over a decade – only to go back and edit his entries years later

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  • Oeuvre Catalogue B1 (1883-1917) Paul Klee

    Klee’s oeuvre catalogue for 1912, with listing on right page and plans for exhibitions on left

    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern 

  • Oeuvre Catalogue B1 (1883-1917) Paul Klee close-up

    A close-up of the right page of Klee’s oeuvre catalogue for 1912

    © Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern 

Klee began to keep a diary as a student and maintained one until 1918 – but at that point, made a concerted effort to go back and edit them. He not only imposed order on his sometimes lengthy entries, but also added sections and cut out others that he presumably regretted writing. So you can come across a bit of the diary from 1908, but it was actually written in 1918 – and there are places where he writes in his current present tense, which is rather confusing.

Although he supplied passages to three authors who wrote the first monographs on his work published in 1920–1, he doesn’t seem to have planned to publish the Diaries as a whole. His son, Felix Klee, produced an edition in 1964 that was widely translated into English in 1968. They are the best sources of Klee’s early ideas, but not entirely reliable because of his process of revision - so they’rebetter seen as autobiography rather than chronicle. 

Next week in our A-Z of Paul Klee: E is for… Egypt!

The EY exhibition: Paul Klee - Making Visible opens at Tate Modern on 16 October, tickets available now