The Hayward Gallery in London is having a show of some 100 watercolors and drawings and a few oils by Paul Klee. It is, of course, thronged. Klee is one of the relatively few 20th century artists genuinely liked by the public for something other than gossip or ridiculously high prices. Milder than clover (which his name means in German), more timid and introspective than a vole listening to the hellish racket of the century outside its burrow, Klee (1879-1940) could never have been accused of being one of the more confrontational artists of his time.
He made drawings and watercolors, sometimes six or seven a day--a volubility that worried him because he feared people would think he was thoughtlessly cranking them out. All his working life he also taught students, notably at the famed Bauhaus (in Weimar, and later in Dessau), where he quietly considered some of the other teachers to be nuts, as indeed some were. Teaching was not a sideline for Klee; it was hugely important to him because it enabled him to systematize his thinking about art. He made up whole strings of teaching theory about color and form, and about the relation of theory to practice, embellished with neat little diagrams of fuzzy squares and charging black arrows. The main fruit of his theorizing was the Pedagogical Sketchbook, the foundation of his teaching practice, which has been through numberless editions and translations since it first saw print in 1925.
His home life with his wife Lily (whom he married in 1906) and his son Felix was utterly blameless; no mistresses, outbursts of jealousy, undisclosed boyfriends or bankruptcies lurked under the rug. His one self-indulgence was cooking. He always bore a social grudge against Picasso, having refused to let him in when, like any Spaniard, Picasso arrived two hours late for their one and only appointment. (What they would have said to each other is conjectural. Klee spoke little French and no Spanish, Picasso no German.)
In sum, if you had been giving awards for picturesqueness, Klee would have been a nonstarter. And in all those thousands of works, to which Klee gave code numbers indicating their date and price range and his opinion of their quality, there is hardly one that has any discernible sexual content at all, no secret genitals or nipples that even the dirtiest-minded brat could ferret out. This has always helped to make him a great favorite with worried modernist parents and ensured that reproductions of his work, such as They're Biting, 1920, outnumber even those of Rousseau's jungle scenes in the nurseries of the West as unbudgeable classics of childhood.