As our alphabetical guide to Paul Klee continues, curator Matthew Gale introduces the artist’s father – a music teacher who took some time to come round to his son’s chosen career

Klee’s house at Obstbergweg 6, Bern, 1935

Klee’s house at Obstbergweg 6, Bern, 1935. (At the top): Mathilde and Hans Klee. (Center) Will Grohmann and his wife (Bottom) Paul and Felix Klee.
Photograph Lily Klee. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, image archive/donation of the Klee family

Klee-Nachlassverwaltung, Bern

Hans Klee, father of Paul and Mathilde, appears to have been a domineering character. He was a lasting presence in the painter’s life, dying at the age of 90 only months before his son, who died at the age of 60 in 1940. Hans Klee’s career as a teacher of music teachers at the Cantonal Teachers’ College made him an influential figure on generations of Swiss musicians.

Growing up in a musical household clearly had a significant effect on Paul Klee, also an accomplished violinist whose love of music often leaked into his work – as well as his social life. In a recent article in Tate Etc., Nicholas Fox Weber, a friend of the artists Josef and Anni Albers, recounts how the pair would go to the Klee household for a social visit, in which the artist would spend the evening not talking but entertaining them with Mozart and Bach on the violin, accompanied by his wife, Lily, on the piano.

Hans Klee seems to have been sceptical of his son’s career as a painter, but evidently proud of the results. In 1917, the poet Hugo Ball recorded his arrival in Zurich, just as a lecture on his son’s exhibition was finishing: ‘An old man of nearly seventy. I would have liked the lecture to begin again, and the audience to be called back by telephone… But he was very pleased to see his famous son’s pictures.’

The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee: Making Visible is at Tate Modern from 16 October 2013 – 9 March 2014