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BOOK REVIEW
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 132  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 750-751

Paul Klee and his illness


Department of Dermatology & Leprosy, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh 160 012, India

Date of Web Publication9-Apr-2011

Correspondence Address:
Sanjeev Handa
Department of Dermatology & Leprosy, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh 160 012
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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How to cite this article:
Handa S. Paul Klee and his illness. Indian J Med Res 2010;132:750-1

How to cite this URL:
Handa S. Paul Klee and his illness. Indian J Med Res [serial online] 2010 [cited 2020 Apr 1];132:750-1. Available from: http://www.ijmr.org.in/text.asp?2010/132/6/750/75298

Paul Klee and his illness, H. Suter (S. Karger, Basel, Switzerland) 2010. 272 pages. Price: US$ 120.00

ISBN 978-3-8055-9381-6

Dr Hans Suter in his book Paul Klee and His Illness had set for himself the following objectives:

  • To collect as far as possible all the information which still exits on Paul Klee's illness.
  • To reappraise the hypothetic diagnosis of scleroderma. Could it have been another disease?
  • To considers whether his illness has in influence on this psyche and his creative work.
  • To look at Paul Klee's later works in the light of his personality, social environment his illness and his imminent demise.


The author has succeeded remarkably on all four counts. Considering the author's objectives one by one the effort that Dr Hans Suter made to glean information from bits and pieces of Paul Klee's nearly non-existent medical and dental records, notes kept by his wife, letters written to his friends and his wife Lily and also the correspondence made by his wife with other family friends is commendable. He has been able to painstakingly chronicle the sequence of events in the later years of Paul Klee's life. He used this information with a judicious mix of his knowledge of medicine as practiced in the late 1930s, symptoms about Paul Klee's illness as made out by his research and made a presumptive diagnosis of scleroderma. He has used his clinical acumen to exclude various differential diagnoses and to reach at this conclusion.

To arrive at a decision regarding the influence of his disease on his work, Dr Hans Suter has beautifully chosen those sketches and paintings where the theme reflects the artist's physical and mental agony. He has been able to illustrate the artist's intuitive mind, his ability to transform his emotion into art. The author in the choice of paintings like High Spirits has also beautifully reflected the small battles won against his disease by Paul Klee. Hans Suter has also been able to bring about through his work the spiritual chord in Paul Klee's life, his acceptance of human mortality and his belief in another life after death. In fact, Suter has recreated all the stages of the artist's life through his art, suffering, fear, doubt, resistance, hope and finally acceptance as he sketched or painted it.

In summary, the author has painstakingly collected pieces of information on Paul Klee's illness and his artistic work and cobbled them together in a cohesive, easily, readable, refreshing book. It is a wonderful and sensitive depiction of the indomitable spirit of Paul Klee, who in spite of his crippling disease produced a remarkable number of sketches and paintings with themes related to his personal life. The sketches and paintings chosen by Hans Suter to describe the mental turmoil of Paul Klee in different situations are very apt. The reader can feel the agony of Paul Klee following his expulsion from his adopted home by Nazi Germany and the lukewarm welcome by the people of Bern, Switzerland. Form a dermatologist's perspective through the diagnosis of scleroderma may not be acceptable due to lack of tangible proof as required by today's evidence-based practice of medicine, Hans Suter succeeds in convincing the readers through his logical inferences as to Paul Klee's actual illness being scleroderma.

A must read for physicians and art enthusiasts alike.




 

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