The artist Paul Klee is unclassifiable

The LaM of Villeneuve-d'Ascq devotes an exhibition to a painter apart, who has chosen the camp of madmen and children against his classical training. © Donation Geneviève and Jean Masurel. (Paul Klee / Philip Bernard / N. Dewitte / LaM) In 1933, Paul Klee and his "degenerate art" were targeted by the Nazis, forcing the artist to flee to Switzerland. At the inauguration of the exhibition of "great German art" in 1937, Adolf Hitler hammered the point home with this speech: "The savages instigators of a backward prehistoric culture" deserve death or must "return to the cave of their ancestors to make their primitive international doodles". For the Nazis, the drawings of Paul Klee are comparable to those of a child, a madman. And, apart from fascists, the vulgate which has stuck to his work for more than a century is not: a child could do it? Never mind, the LaM has taken these criticisms at face value to wonder: does the work of Paul Klee (1879-1940) have an eye on the side of asylum art, is it subject to non-European influences, to prehistoric times and to children's drawings, all exactly what Hitler's supporters abhorred? It is precisely this reading grid that interests Entre-Mondes, the Villeneuve-d'Ascq exhibition. With 120 works from Bern (Switzerland), the tour ignores chronology and prefers the thematic approach that permeates both the cultural history of the time and the artist's life. In a scenography that places documentary material in the center and arranges the paintings in circles, the work is naturally free from categorization. Funny faces "These gentlemen specialists think that my images are in reality the work of a mentally ill person […], confides Paul Klee to writer Lothar Schreyer. Am I now good for the madhouse? Except the whole world is a madhouse." From the first room, the characters' saraband looks like a madman's carnival, impossible to enclose in a box. Death disguised as a mummy - an adorable plaster statuette - the Spirit of the storm - a sort of praying mantis drawn with a pen - the possessed girl with bulging eyes and the extraordinary Ragged Ghost- a big brown task with two round eyes, a zipped mouth and small legs matching a red hair - come to meet us with a dumbfounded presence. In 1922, the work Expressions de la folie by psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn disseminated the art of the insane: Paul Klee was sensitive to it, as were his surrealist friends. The art of the mentally ill, which is not yet called "art brut", then becomes a source of inspiration. "All this (the art of children and the mentally ill) must be taken seriously, more seriously than all art galleries when it comes to reforming painting today," says the artist who wants to break with his training at the Fine Arts in Munich and paints funny faces and masks in shambles… © (Paul Klee / Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern) How to escape sterile academism and reinvent art at the start of the 20th century? At 23, Paul Klee already says: "I want to be like a newborn, knowing absolutely nothing about Europe, ignoring poets and fashions, almost a primitive." In a century marked by archaeological discoveries and ethnographic collections, Paul Klee sets out his program: the painter draws his inspiration from a primordial turmoil, in the art of the marginalized and in non-Western art. He also uses humble materials: cardboard, glue paint, water paint ... From his stays in Tunisia and Egypt, "the mental painter", as Antonin Artaud called him, brings back memories. In his workshop at the Bauhaus where he taught from 1921, for more than ten years, he owned an African statuette, spears from Papua New Guinea, a figurine from Congo (DRC). In France, during his holidays, Paul Klee visits the prehistoric site of Carnac which he finds "grandiose". Some of his paintings then evoke the patterns of the painted ceilings of mosques in Souss (Tunisia) while others recall the calligraphy and hieroglyphics seen in North Africa. And how can we not see in the Woodlouse, a painting from 1940, a large fishbone in the shape of a fossil? Free electron Paul Klee's taste for naïve expression takes him back in time to prehistoric times, when, before the war of 1939-1945, cave paintings were in vogue and cave art exhibited at MoMA in New York next to his paintings. But it also goes back to his childhood. If Paul Klee asserts his pride for his drawings of a little boy - which he included in a catalog raisonné in 1911 - he painted dolls. He exhibited his son Félix's drawings near his family (as beautiful as they were, Félix's drawings do not equal those of his father). Art may be child's play, but it remains complex, and is never reducible to a single influence, as the painter claimed. This exhibition demonstrates this, whose works could illustrate several themes at the same time. Coming from everywhere, but especially from the gray and sensitive matter of Klee, the art of the free electron is perhaps and above all landed from the planet Mars… It was in any case the theory of the poet Robert Desnos, who compared Paul Klee to a Martian. Surprising because unclassifiable. Seen in "Libe" Clementine Mercier

The artist Paul Klee is unclassifiable

The LaM of Villeneuve-d'Ascq devotes an exhibition to a painter apart, who has chosen the camp of madmen and children against his...