McMullen Museum Draws Klee
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Although students pass Devlin Hall daily and have likely taken a science core class in one of its rooms or even recall waiting for a campus tour in its Admission’s Office, it is less likely that students have taken advantage of a not- so-very-hidden gem on our campus: the McMullen Museum of Art.
"I’ve never been inside. Where is that?" is not an uncommon sentiment among the grades, including the senior class. Some assume the museum is dedicated to University history. The McMullen Museum, in fact, is located on the first floor of Devlin Hall and houses a permanent collection of paintings and tapestries by American, Italian, and Flemish artists that range from the 1500s to later American pieces from the first half of the 20th century. Works range from Christian to classical, pastoral to nautical, and hail from a number of movements including the Baroque, Gothic, and Realist movements.
Opened in the early ’90s after comprehensive renovations on Devlin, the Museum was named in 1996 for Boston College benefactor John J. McMullen and his wife, Jacqueline. In addition to the
permanent collection, the museum displays special exhibitions biannually, having previously displayed works of such esteemed artists as Jackson Pollack, Edvard Munch, and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
Currently, the special exhibition features the works of Paul Klee and approaches his work from a philosophical viewpoint. Titled
Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision: from Nature to Art, the exhibit features sketches, paintings, prints, and lithographs wherein Klee depicted the human experience in nature through exploration in form, line, and movement. This exhibition is the first of its kind to pair Klee’s work with essays of esteemed philosophers like Martin Heidegger and Michael Foucault.
At a Jesuit, Catholic University that adheres to the liberal arts approach to education and where all students are required to take two courses in philosophy, it is fitting that the exhibitions at the McMullen Museum often reflect this breadth and depth. The current special exhibit in particular reveals that: Klee, though known primarily for his art, was also a poet, teacher, musician, and prolific writer. The works in the exhibit are paired with Klee’s own writing as well as that of philosophers, and the result is a fascinating example of explorations of thought, nature, and society.
Born in Switzerland in 1879, Klee spent much of his life in both Switzerland and Germany before his death in 1940. Some of his drawings from his time in Germany during Nazi occupation, currently on display, are fascinating in his use of loose line to recreate the immense anxiousness of the period. In
Violence (1933), Klee depicts two figures, one of which is striking the other who, arms up in surrender, tries to evade the blows. The work seems incomplete, the face on the aggressor almost juvenile in its rendering. Despite its draft-like quality, however, the sketch produces a profound emotion and a comment on oppression that cannot be ignored.
Other works exhibited demonstrate an interesting deviation from conventional use of color and line in the form of elaborate doodle-like drawings and lithographs. Some are so abstract that the title and information plaque is necessary to contextualize the piece, but left to their own devices, the pieces seem to be situated in a wild dream. In
The Witch with the Comb (1922) the viewer can make out the witch form but Klee distorts the figure with unexpected line work and he even gives the witch arrows for hands. This lithograph, as well as other pieces in the exhibit, forces the viewer to reconsider how he or she views and makes sense of the world because of the largely abstract nature of Klee’s work.