Paul Klee (1879–1940) may have protested that “we are much too concerned with biography in art,” but this revealing exhibition shows that even the most imaginative artist can’t escape the influence of his own life and times. The show is organized into eight thematic sections, tracing “the artist’s dialogue with nature,” “the drama of existence,” and “movement, flight, and the balance of forces,” as Klee explored them over the decades.

In the satirical etching Comedian (1904), a rumpled-faced actor in a plumed helmet sports a mask that looks much like his own face. Klee, an accomplished violinist and music critic, was also an avid operagoer who considered opera the highest form of theater. This grotesque buffo character presents a maddeningly inconclusive image, but we can still delight in its expressionism and the energy of its pulsat ...