By the 1940s, Klee’s writings—including “Creative Confession” and “Pedagogical Sketchbook
”—also became more available to American artists, thanks to their translation into English for the first time. These were passed around schools such as Black Mountain and Columbia University, where the art historian Meyer Schapiro taught young painters like Motherwell using Klee’s model.
Motherwell had a copy of “Pedagogical Sketchbook”; Lewis, another Abstract Expressionist included in “Ten Americans,” had two different editions. “Through information like this, we realize that the show is as much about what these artists were learning from his art as from his ideas,” co-curator Smithgall explained.
“So what is Klee’s ultimate influence on artists as important as Pollock and Lewis?” she continued. “There are some formal similarities, sure. But it’s really about the ideas and methods that they’re assimilating—and then ultimately creating their own form of artistic expression based on that.”