Exhibition gathers both heirs to marvel at Picasso and Klee

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An exhibition in Switzerland has brought together the genius of modern art contemporaries Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee with an added twist: the first meeting of their two heirs.

Picasso and Klee the elders, among the most influential artists of the 20th century, met only twice.

Once when Klee (1879-1940) was among a group of artists who visited the ebullient Spaniard's studio in Paris in 1933.

The second time was four years later when Picasso (1881-1973) came to see the pensive German and Swiss painter in the Swiss capital Bern.

More than 70 years on, the Zentrum Paul Klee museum in Bern is attempting to draw parallels between them with an exhibition of more than 180 works called "Klee meets Picasso".

And it brought their respective son and grandson for an unprecedented gathering to mull over those artistic ties.

"This exhibition is something of a sequel to the meeting between Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee," said an elated Alexander Klee, heir and president of the foundation that bears his grandfather's name.

Claude Picasso, son and heir of the prolific Spanish painter and sculptor, and 70 year-old Alexander Klee had never met even though they live near each other in Switzerland in the Bern region.

Like their renowned forefathers -- with whom they bear a striking physical resemblance -- both men share a number of pastimes, including photography, as well as enthusiasm for their artistic legacy.

Claude Picasso, who was born in 1947, described the exhibition as an "ideal, a dream for art historians."

"It's a monumental project, a great moment in the history of art," he added, comparing it to "a ballet of love".

"It's brutal but terribly exciting," he added, eyeing the works of the two modern masters with fascination.

Even before they met, beyond their attraction for similar artistic movements -- cubism, expressionism and surrealism -- Klee and Picasso the artists even hit on similar subject matter.

Picasso's "La Buveuse Assoupie" (Dozing woman drinker) and Klee's "Empfindsame Jungfrau mit das Massliebchen" (Sentimental maiden with daisy), share subject, form and perspective.

Klee, barely the elder of the two, did not hide his esteem for Picasso's work, overtly typified in "Hommage to Picasso" in 1914, an abstract patchwork of earthy colour.

However, while Klee took on elements of Picasso's trend-setting style, he kept his distance, swaying between admiration and irony.

Klee's naive child-like drawings of "Urchs" -- a large bull -- mock Picasso's dramatic portrayals of the minotaur, a contrast the exhibition's organisers wanted to highlight.

In several portraits, Klee softened the asymetric traits and glaring eyes that Picasso favoured even though he stayed in the abstract.

In "Girl with Pitchers" (1910) Klee represents his subject with squares of blue-toned colour but her face is recognisable. In Picasso's cubist grey-beige "Femme avec Mandoline" (Woman with Mandolin) her forms are decomposed.

Picasso and Klee's descendants steer clear of the issue of who influenced whom.

"Klee was filled with irony but Picasso's work was something he took very seriously. It's thought he was slightly afraid of Picasso's influence," said Alexander Klee.

The exhibition runs until September 26.

© 2010 AFP

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