The Carl Djerassi Collection has been housed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art since the 1980s.
With its focus on the graphic work of Paul Klee, the remarkable collection provides unusual insights into the artists
complex oeuvre. Drawings, watercolours, gouaches and prints range from Klees early period to the powerful and monumental
images of his last years. Thanks to the generosity of Carl Djerassi, the Albertina is now in possession of a substantial part
of the Carl Djerassi Collection.
In addition to these 67 works, the current exhibition features the Albertinas own holdings, works on permanent loan
to the Albertina from the Forberg and
, and works lent to the exhibition from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other international museums and private
Bruno Molls documentary film
The Journey to Tunis
will be screened during the exhibition.
Paul Klees oeuvre is made up of more than 9,000 works, the majority of them small-scale. Klee began his career as a
draughtsman, and drawing would continue to play a key role in his work until his later years. In the catalogue which Klee
himself maintained from 1911, monochrome sheets, as he called his drawings, constitute more than half the entries.
Early drawings by Klee are the focus of the Albertinas own holdings, particularly the works that came into the museums
possession with the bequest of the graphic artist Alfred Kubin.
Klees interest in Cubism and Robert Delaunays colour theory led him to turn to abstraction and the use of colour.
Klee had explored abstract design even before he travelled to Tunis in April 1914, but it was on that journey that he recognized
how important colour was to him ? a decisive turning point in his artistic development.
Klee served in the First World War but not on the front lines, and he was able to work to a limited extent. During these years
he evolved a unique artistic language inspired by the fresh creative energy of childrens drawings. Stars, animals, plants
and flowers, figures large and small, angels and demons populated his work.
Recognition came after he joined the faculty of the Bauhaus school in Weimar in 1920. All together he taught there for ten
years. The works he produced in his Bauhaus period reflect his intense preoccupation with colour mixing and colour theory.
Geometric forms and constructivist tendencies predominate.
Once the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925, its goals began to clash with Klees own ideas about life and work. In 1930
he took up a teaching position at the Düsseldorf Academy. Forced to leave the academy soon after the Nazis came to power in
1933, he emigrated to Switzerland.
Working in his Swiss exile from 1933 until his death in 1940, Klee created some of the most significant works in late modern
art. His output was marked not only by the experience of emigration but also by the serious decline in his health. Klee was
so weakened by the onset of the rare autoimmune disease scleroderma that he had to nearly stop working in 1936. From 1937,
however, he produced an astonishing volume of work, including over 1,000 drawings. The themes of illness, emigration and an
awareness of mortality are frequently reflected and refracted in these late paintings and drawings. Yet other works from this
period are bright and playful, their light-heartedness and subtle humour a reminder of the stoicism with which Klee bore the
tragic times and his incurable illness.
Paul Klee died on 29 June 1940 in Muralto, near Locarno, Switzerland.
Journey to Tunis
In 1914, Paul Klee undertook a trip to Tunisia which would have a lasting influence on his life and work.
Nearly 100 years later, Tunisian film-maker Nacer Khemir reconstructed Klees travels in the Maghreb based on the diary
the artist had kept. Journey to Tunis links the lives of two creative people in very different eras, revealing the similarities
between them as well as what divides them.