Klee and Cobra
A child’s Play
Two focal points of 20th century art, Paul Klee and the Cobra group, were fundamentally inspired by the creative power of children. Now, for the first time, the exhibition at Louisiana presented this surprising and important relationship.
When Paul Klee rediscovered his own childhood drawings in the attic of his parents’ home in Bern, it would prove to be a revelation for the young Swiss artist. Aged 23 at the time and longing to free himself from all classical restrictions and conventions, Paul Klee found in these drawings exactly the kind of authenticity and power of expression, that he was on the look-out for. Indeed Klee (1879-1940), one of the great classics of 20th century art, would remain deeply fascinated with and very directly inspired by the artistic creativity of children for the rest of his life.
In turn, Klee and this lifelong passion of his would become an important source of inspiration for the Cobra group, formed by artists from Denmark, Belgium and The Netherlands. After the devastations of World War II, this shortlived, but highly influential artistic movement (1948-1951), sought new ground, wishing “to start all over just like a child,” as one of its members, Karel Appel, stated. Cobra artists perceived Klee as a sort of father figure: “he has touched the innermost essence of art and made something come alive for us.” They explored the origins of art, as found a.o. in the pictures of children, in a collective and political spirit, often creating works that radiate a sense of freedom and childlike joy.
The exhibition at Louisiana brought together about 120 works by Klee and a similar number of works by Cobra artists, arranged into five key themes: children, acrobats, animals, war and masks – each highlighting a surprising amount of parallels and points of contact between the two parties