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Dialogue between two masters of color, Johannes Itten and Paul Klee, at the Kunstmuseum Bern
Johannes Itten, Turm des Feuers (Rekonstruktion), 1920 /1998. Holz, Metall, Glas, Blei, Motor und Zahnrad, 395 x 140 x 140 cm. Kunstmuseum Bern, Johannes Itten-Stiftung, Bern Schenkung des Vereins "Swiss, made.", der Schweiz. Stiftung Pro Helvetia und des Bundesamtes für Kultur© 2012, ProLitteris, Zürich.

BERN.- The exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Bern palpably illustrates Johannes Itten’s and Paul Klee’s study of color with key works by both artists. They were two pivotal figures in the area of color theory and comprehensively integrated their reflections on color in their artistic work. The exhibition is the first show to present Johannes Itten and Paul Klee as two artists mutually pursuing an ideal.

Actually one would think that it is only logical to show Johannes Itten and Paul Klee in dialogue with one another. After all, their lives and work intersected at many points. For example, Paul Klee’s father was the first to inspire Johannes Itten to become an artist. And conversely, Paul Klee ultimately had Johannes Itten’s support to thank for his appointment to work at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Both artists began their lifelong investigation and study of color theory as well as of the structures inherent in the cosmos of color well-nigh simultaneously around 1914/1915. At the time Klee was visiting Tunisia and Itten was staying in Stuttgart where he came under the influence of Adolf Hölzel’s color theory. Over many years, Itten and Klee took a mutual interest in each other's art and even exchanged works.

First exhibition together
In face of all this, it is all the more surprising that Johannes Itten and Paul Klee have hitherto not been featured together in a monographic exhibition that focuses on their mutual artistic pursuits. The exhibition taking place in the Kunstmuseum Bern can now finally show that not only Klee inspired Itten, but also that Itten influenced Klee, and that both artists drew on the same sources. Additionally they both firmly believed that the order of colors presents a self-contained cosmos and obeys set principles.

Multifaceted aspects of color
The exhibition underscores the importance of color and its multifaceted nature for the artistic oeuvres and art theories of Johannes Itten and Paul Klee. It addresses the subject of color and esoteric, color harmony, color and abstraction, color and nature. The exhibits have been chronologically ordered together in eleven sections. The choreography of the show takes up Klee’s idea of gray building the center of the color cosmos by mounting the artworks on gray walls. Additionally, the background colors of the room numbers have been taken from Itten's color disc, which our visitors pass through during their visit, as it were.

Key works from various collections
The Kunstmuseum Bern is home to the Johannes Itten Foundation and therefore has numerous key works by Johannes Itten at its disposal. Paul Klee is well-represented in the collection too. For example, the Kunstmuseum owns works such as the painting Ad Parnassum, which we can justifiably assert to be Klee’s artistic legacy in paint on color theory. Additionally the museum was able to obtain loans from prestigious museums and private collections such as the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, the Albertina in Vienna, and the Fondation Beyeler in Basel. The fact that the show will also be shown in the Martin Gropius Building in Berlin evidences the great interest in this fascinating exhibition topic.

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