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Reality, distorted

Everything in Paul Klee’s art is clear, yet we never quite know what we’re looking at. An exhibition at Tate Modern shows his unique combination of realism and surrealism

By James Woodall   October 2013

Comedy (1921) shows Klee evoking earthly and the somewhere-else, with a bizarre parade of half-recognisable figures. (© Tate Modern)

Paul Klee, born in Switzerland in 1879, was at his most inventive at a moment in modern art when traditional realist painting was considered dead. He, like many artists, thrived on a Europe-wide challenge to old-fashioned forms of representation in painting. By the end of the First World War the roots of cubism and expressionism had grown deep. It was at this moment that Klee came into his own as a…

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