Kunstmuseum Bern

Johannes Itten and Paul Klee

30 Nov 2012 - 01 Apr 2013

Johannes Itten
Die Begegnung, 1916
Öl auf Leinwand
105 x 80 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich
© 2012, ProLitteris, Zürich
Mutual Inspiration
30 November 2012 - 1 April 2013

On the basis of prominent key works, the exhibition will investigate the artistic confrontation between Johannes Itten and Paul Klee on the subject of color. In the process the show will explore related aspects such as color and esoteric notions, aura and harmony of color, color and abstraction, color and nature, and color division. For the very first time we will be able to demonstrate that not only Klee influenced Itten, but also that Itten inspired Klee, and that both artists drew from a mutual source. Additionally the exhibition will explore color theory and how it was represented in the notes and diaries of both artists.

Johannes Itten and Paul Klee stand out in the history of 20th-century art for their significant contributions to color theory. Both artists were convinced that the order of colors was structured according to the set principles of a self-contained universe. New research has shown that both artists drew on mutual historical-intellectual sources and that they reciprocally influenced one another as well. Both developed their ideas on color over decades of reflection and work, and comprehensively applied them in their art.

The lives and careers of both Swiss artists converged at many points. For example, Paul Klee’s father was the first to inspire Itten in his artistic pursuits. Conversely, Klee’s appointment to work at the Bauhaus in Weimar was chiefly supported by Itten. Well-nigh simultaneously in 1914/1915, both artists began their lifelong investigation and study of color theory as well as the structures inherent in the universe of color. In the case of Klee it was during a trip to Tunis, while Itten's interest was sparked off by Adolf Hölzel’s color theory in Stuttgart. Over many years, both artists took an interest in each other's art and also exchanged artworks.

This makes it all the more surprising that Johannes Itten and Paul Klee have never been shown together in a monographic exhibition exploring their work as an artistic duo.

A scholarly and comprehensive catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition. It will elucidate the respective concepts of color and the art-historical context thereof, and document the new sources in relevance to the exhibits. On Nov. 30 2012, a symposium with academic contributions on the significance of color in the art and color theories of Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and Otto Nebel will take place. The symposium will be organized by the Kunstmuseum Bern in collaboration with the Zentrum Paul Klee.

An exhibition by the Kunstmuseums Bern and the Martin-Gropius-Baus Berlin.The exhibition is to see in the Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin from April 25th to July 29th 2013.

Tags: Adolf Hölzel, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee