Aufgeteilte Farbvierecke is recorded as number 1921/38 in the artist's Werkkatalog which suggests that the present watercolour was executed at the start of Klee's Bauhaus period.
In October 1920 Gropius sent Klee a legendary telegram, on behalf of the Bauhaus committee, the text of which read: 'Dear, illustrious Paul Klee, we all invite you to come to us at the Bauhaus, as a painter - Gropius, Feininger, Engelmann, Marcks, Muche, Itten, Klemm'. Klee accepted without hesitation, and on 10 January 1921 started his new work in Weimar. For ten years, until April 1931, he stayed at the Bauhaus, dividing his time between painting and teaching.
Klee conceived his chair at the Bauhaus as a militant mission to intellectually and technically educate his diverse audience. Through exhibitions and publications, the artist's fame was spreading from provincial Weimar to the rest of the world: 1921 is also when Wilhelm Hausenstein's monograph Kairouan oder eine Geschichte vom Maler Klee und von der Kunst unseres Zeitalters appeared, making Klee's oeuvre known outside the world of avant-garde painters.
Compelled by his new role as a teacher, and the first publications on his work, he felt obliged to rethink his theoretical approach to art - a reflection upon his working methods which culminated in his celebrated Pädagogisches Skizzenbuch of 1925. At the core of his aesthetical preoccupations at this time were two concepts in particular: the focus on the potential of colour, and the interest on the geometrical shape of the square, both masterly exemplified in the present watercolour.
Aufgeteilte Farbvierecke is one of Klee's most delicate Paintings of squares (see fig. 2). As C. Geelhar has pointed out, 'The paintings of squares were inspired by the urge, in Worringer's words: 'to win from the unclear factors of perception, which is what really imparts to the external thing its relativity, an abstract of the object capable of forming a whole for the imagination' (Abstraction and Empathy, London, 1948, p. 41). This can only succeed with the 'elements of the purest abstraction, namely geometric-crystalline regularity' (Paul Klee and the Bauhaus, 1973, p. 44).
Klee's geometrical dissection of the surface of the picture, which he had experimented with since the Tunisian watercolours of 1914, was the artist's ambitious synthesis of orphism and cubism, and the ultimate expression of his quest for an 'active harmony'. The significance of an 'active harmony' was acknowledged by Klee in March 1906: 'For my kind of composition it is essential that the disharmonies (profane imponderables, defects or roughnesses) in the values be brought back into equilibrium by counterweights, and that the harmony regained in this way be not only beautiful but strong' (Diaries of Paul Klee 1898-1918, edited with an introduction of Felix Klee, Cologne, 1957. English edition: London, 1964, entry 758).