This week in our Paul Klee blog series, curator Matthew Gale explains why quantity is key – and we’re not talking about turkey

Paul Klee’s studio at the Bauhaus, Weimar, 1925

A photograph of Paul Klee’s studio at the Bauhaus, Weimar, 1925, taken by the artist

Zentrum Paul Klee

Klee showed his work in surprising quantities. In 1920 he included 362 works in his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz in Munich. It had a remarkable impact and established his reputation. His later exhibitions continued the pattern. At the Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1923, Klee included 270 works, and two years later showed 214 at Goltz’s. Alfred Flechtheim showed 150 Klees in Berlin to mark the painter’s fiftieth birthday in 1929. On returning to Switzerland, Klee selected 273 works for the Bern Kunsthalle in 1935, and a further 213 in his final lifetime show – Paul Klee: New Works – in February 1940 at the Kunsthaus Zurich.

Given such striking statistics it is perhaps not surprising that Klee’s dealers became concerned that he might compromise sales by seeming to be over-productive. Rather than reducing his output or the size of the exhibitions, Klee introduced a letter code to his numbering system that disguised his productivity.

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

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