In our AZ this week, our curator Matthew Gale delves into the archives to shine a light on Paul Klee’s love of music and playing the violin

Quintet in the studio of painting and drawing school Heinrich Knirr in Munich, 1900

Quintet in the studio of painting and drawing school Heinrich Knirr in Munich, 1900
Paul Klee (far right) is photographed with the violin. He is accompanied by (l-r) Walther Siegrist (second violin), Fritz Stubenvollstrasse (viola), Franz Schmidt, a student of classical philology (first cello) and Julius Labba (second cello). This is the only photo held in the Zentrum Paul Klee archive of the artist playing an instrument.

Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Schenkung Familie Klee
© Klee-Nachlassverwaltung, Bern (Klee Estate, Berne)

Klee was an accomplished violinist, playing in quartets and in an orchestra in the Swiss capital Bern, touring to neighbouring cities in 1902–6. The quartet’s repertoire included Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart. Once he was married to pianist Lily, (Klee met his future wife at a concert in 1899 and married in 1906) they played violin and piano pieces together and even gave concerts in support of the Bauhaus in the 1920s.

Both Klee and Lily lived rich musical lives, regularly attending performances across Germany in Munich, Weimar, Jena, Dessau and Berlin, as well as on their holidays. Although appreciating contemporary composers (such as Paul Hindemith) and performers, many of whom he met at the Bauhaus, Klee seems to have believed that his own talents were suited best to the classical repertoire learnt in his youth. Mozart remained his measure.

The EY Exhibition: Paul Klee: Making Visible is at Tate Modern until 9 March 2014