Any overview of the collection must begin with the works of Paul Klee (1879 -1940). Initially, 88 works by this artist – all of them formerly owned by a private collector in Pittsburgh – formed the core inventory of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. For this ensemble of paintings, drawings, and works in color on paper, the Federal State of North Rhine Westphalia paid altogether 6 million German marks – an immense sum at the time, albeit one that seems ludicrously minimal today. This work ensemble includes outstanding pieces such as Der L– Platz im Bau (L Square in Construction; 1923), schwarzer Fürst (Black Prince; 1927), Gezeichneter (Drawn Figure; 1935) und heroische Rosen (Heroic Roses; 1938).
Acquired in subsequent years were additional important paintings by Klee, including Kamel (in rhythm. Baumlandschaft) (Camel (In Rhythmic Landscape of Trees); 1920), one of the first works executed by this artist in oils. The purchase of works such as Rote u. weisse Kuppeln (Red and White Cupolas; 1914) and Erinnerung an einen Garten (Memory of a Garden; 1914) allowed the museum to represent the phase during which Klee arrived at colored composition in connection with a trip to Tunisia. Further major additions include drawings such as scharfes Wort (Harsh Word; 1940), produced in the reductive, linear, refractory formal idiom of the late creative period.
Our Klee collection, which today encompasses nearly 100 works, offers a singular perspective on the virtually inexhaustible creativity of this artist. In his works, Klee reflected with sensitivity and analytical precision on the events of his times while generating an artistic cosmos that unites the tragicomic, the lighthearted, gravity, irony, playfulness, and calculation.