Paul Klee, Vorsicht Schlangen! (Detail), 1938, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Schenkung Livia Klee, © Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Exhibition | Archive

From Japonisme to Zen

Paul Klee and the Far East

18 October 2014 to 1 February 2015

The German-Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879–1940) was one of the most important and versatile artists of the 20th century. His extremely idiosyncratic, individualistic style is pigeon-holed under European Expressionism, Cubism and Primitivism. It was probably through Wassily Kandinsky and the Blauer Reiter artist group that Klee came into contact with original works of East Asian art. These encounters have him completely new inspiration and encouraged him to take an interest in East Asian art that went far beyond the fashion for Japonisme.


Paul Klee’s confrontation with East Asian, particularly Japanese, culture reflects his open and inquisitive attitude. This aspect of his work, evidenced by his reception of Japanese and Chinese art, literature and poetry as well as of Daoism and Zen Buddhism, has never been properly appreciated to date. The exhibition, organized in association with the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, makes clear the extent to which the art of East Asia was an integral component of Klee’s œuvre.

With the work of seven contemporary Japanese artists, the exhibition also shows how Klee has influenced art in present-day Japan.

In association with

With the kind support of

Fördererkreis des Museums für Ostasiatische Kunst Köln

Orientstiftung zur Förderung der Ostasiatischen Kunst

Cultural partner


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