Journal article Open Access
Until now, Paul Klee‘s illness has been approached primarily from the perspective of medical doctors and with a focus on the correctness of his medical diagnosis. His »last works«, so those produced between 1935-1940, have also been too narrowly interpreted based on the effect of his posthumously diagnosed scleroderma, now known as systemic autoimmune disease, and all too often with a tendency towards psychopathologisation.
The serious illness that Paul Klee suffered while in exile in Bern began in the summer of 1935. It was to preoccupy the artist, his family, and his close friends and acquaintances for the remaining six years of his life. Klee himself rarely commented on his condition. This heightens the importance of the testimonies of his wife and main caregiver Lily, and the remarks made by his friends and others.
This review of Klee’s medical history from the perspective of the patient (The Patient View) and of his family and friends, along with an examination of the artist’s working environment and medical history, is intended to provide a new basis for the interpretation of the works created during his time in exile in Bern. The research has its origins in the Paul Klee and Medicine exhibition held in 2005.
For this article, they have been updated, supplemented with perspectives from previous publications, and expanded with new findings.