Tile, 17th century, Multan, Pakistan,
epigraphic decor, Linden-Museum Stuttgart, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde

Paul Klee, the snake goddess and her foe, 1940,317 (H17), Private collection

 

 

As the tendril-like ornament of the arabesque and as calligraphy (Ill.), line already had a significant international career behind it by the time when, in around 1900, Art Nouveau started using it to convey a pure, non-figurative movement. In his »figurative calligraphies«, Paul Klee recalls this tradition of the fusion of written characters and images (Ill.) By means of a large number of artefacts and works of art, this section shows how the arabesque introduced itself like a stowaway into the new conception of the Romantic picture in the early 19th century (Runge) and, via Symbolism (Gauguin) and Art Nouveau (van de Velde, J. Hoffmann), started to influence the development of the increasingly abstract art that was beginning to emerge. Can 20th century abstract painting perhaps be seen as nothing more than the continuation of ornament's history?