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    Sale 1994

    Impressionist And Modern Art Evening Sale

    6 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 31

    Paul Klee (1878-1940)


    Price Realised  


    Paul Klee (1878-1940)
    signed 'Klee' (center left) and dated, numbered and titled '1924 216 Dünenfriedhof' (on the artist's mount)
    watercolor, pen and India ink on paper laid down by the artist on painted card
    Image: 18¼ x 11¼ in. (46.3 x 36.2 cm.)
    Mount: 20 x 12¾ in. (50.8 x 32.4 cm.)
    Executed in 1924

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    Klee had been teaching at the Bauhaus since 1921, and his newfound financial security, and vacation time, allowed him the opportunity for the first time since the First World War to travel abroad. In September 1924 the artist journeyed to Italy with his wife Lily. Klee had visited the country in April 1914 while returning from a trip to Tunisia, and memories of the hilly landscape, stacked houses, and sun-drenched architecture enticed him to return there a decade later. The couple spent six weeks abroad--they departed from Bern to Genoa, moved on to Naples, and finally arrived at the East coast of Sicily, where they spent two weeks before returning home via Rome and Milan. The titles of Klee's watercolors trace his Sicilian itinerary; he traveled first to Catania, and then to their main destination, the beach at Mazzaró and the town of Taormina. Since the nineteenth century, Taormina had been a famous tourist draw, as it afforded stunning views, especially the panorama of Aetna that can seen from the town's famous Greek amphitheater. The trip made a strong impression on Klee and his wife Lily, who wrote to Emmy (Galka) Scheyer, on October fourteenth that "For Klee, Sicily was an important artistic experience" (in U. Gerlach-Laxner and E. Schwinzer, eds., Paul Klee: Reisen in den Süden, Ostfildern-Ruit bei Stuttgart, 1997, p. 59).

    The present watercolor, one of roughly two dozen that Klee executed on Sicilian subjects during 1924, represents a synthesis of nature and history that the artist equated with Sicily itself. The work depicts a cemetery in the dunes that is bathed in a luminous blue by the full moon that hangs low on the horizon. The peak of Aetna appears as a small white triangle in the background, a cipher of the natural landscape that is balanced by a jagged peak that juts into the foreground and supports a black cross. The scene evokes the mingling of the region's classical and Christian past, set against the unchanging backdrop of the ancient volcano and the surrounding scenery.
    These images forge a metaphorical connection between an inner, spiritual realm and the outer, natural world. The art historian Will Grohmann, who was a close friend of the painter, recalled that Klee "was always fascinated by the landscape's historical associations, and had a feeling for how regional history and geography come together" (quoted in ibid., p. 53). Klee later articulated this vision of classical history as expressed in the Italian landscape when he briefly stopped at Syracuse in September 1928 while traveling to Egypt: "The landscape is naturally 'classical,'" he stated, "And, as the home of Aeschylus, Archimedes, and the great tyrants, it is also seasoned with history. This historical inspiration stands the test of time, and together with the masterpiece of nature called Aetna, becomes the fruition of classical Sicily" (quoted in ibid).

    Klee's memories of Sicily remained a vital part of his art long after his return to the Bauhaus and appear in his work until 1931. When the Dessau Bauhaus approached closure as the result of local cultural politics in December 1924, Klee wrote to Lily in Munich, "I experience nothing, don't even want to. I carry the mountains and sun of Sicily within me. Everything else is boring" (Briefe, vol. II, p. 997).


    Alois I. Schardt, Berlin and Halle (1929).
    Anna Schardt (by descent from the above, and until 1959).
    Saidenberg Gallery, New York (circa 1959).
    Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr., Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. (acquired circa 1959).

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr.

    Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr.'s, collecting interests and instincts were developed early on in his life. Born in New York in 1911, Mr. Lewis was the son of investment banker Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Sr., and Annah Churchill Ripley. Lewis's maternal grandmother, Mary Churchill Ripley, was an Oriental scholar and author of several books including The Oriental Rug Book, published in 1904 and reprinted for more than 30 years thereafter. Under the tutelage of his grandmother, Lewis spent long hours studying Chinese tapestry and porcelain, and Japanese metalwork. This keen observation and appreciation of quality and detail would have a profound impact on Lewis's collecting later in life. Ripley left her grandson a fine collection of Japanese tsuba (swordguards), which he added to throughout his lifetime, as well as a collection of Chinese porcelain which remains in the Lewis family.

    Mr. Lewis's father and paternal grandmother, Helen Forbes Salomon, also shaped his appreciation for beautiful objects and his interest in European art. Mr. Lewis, Sr., and his mother, Mrs. Salomon, following the death of Annah Churchill Ripley in 1918, together commissioned John Russell Pope to design a 44-room Tudor manor house on the thousand acre "Skylands" estate in Northern New Jersey, which Lewis, Sr., purchased in 1922. Lewis traveled with his father and sister to Europe frequently during the 1920s to find furniture and antiques to furnish their country estate, and he began to acquire some European drawings and etchings on his own. Mr. Lewis, Sr.'s, passion was landscaping and botany, and Skylands was subsequently purchased in 1966 by the state of New Jersey and designated the state's official botanical garden in 1984. Mr. Lewis, Sr.'s, papers are held by the New York Botanical Garden, where he was a trustee.

    Mr. Lewis married Alverta Van Dusen of Philadelphia in 1945 following his service as a Captain in the U.S. Army in Italy during World War II. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he joined the U.S. Treasury's Tax Legislative Council and crafted significant portions of what became the 1954 Internal Revenue Code. During the Eisenhower administration, he moved with his wife and four sons to Pittsburgh to join the law firm of Kirkpatrick, Lockhart as head of the tax department. While in Pittsburgh, he served as a Trustee of the Carnegie Museum where he initiated an expanded acquisition program. During these years, Lewis applied his highly cultivated and discerning eye to form an extraordinary collection of Paul Klee works on paper, as well as other works of the Impressionist and Modern period. In 1961, he and his family returned to Washington D.C. where he worked for the Agency for International Development's Alliance for Progress. In the 1960s, his collecting interests extended to Rembrandt etchings, Latin American art, Japanese sculpture and early 20th century photography. During this period Lewis further augmented his collection of Klees, forming one of the finest private collections spanning the varied oeuvre of this brilliant artist (see Lots 31 and 39 in the present sale, and Lot 137 in the Impressionist and Modern Art Works on Paper sale). Mrs. Lewis kept pace with her husband's artistic interests, working as a docent and on the acquisitions committee at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Together, they made donations of many works to the museums with which they were associated and to their undergraduate schools, Vassar College and Princeton University.

    Mr. Lewis shared his love of art with his sons starting in their childhood, perhaps remembering how the adults of his childhood had shared their love of beautiful objects with him. On a family trip to Italy in 1958, he asked his sons each to identify their favorite works in the great museums of Florence, Venice and Rome and to give an explanation of why they had made their selections. In 1961, he made a pilgrimage to the Klee institute in Bern, Switzerland, two of his sons in tow.

    Lewis's work in social and economic development in Latin America led to consultancy and fund-raising for a national organization of urban youth groups, Youth Organizations United, in the late 1960s which continued until he retired in 1975 for reasons of health. He died in 1979.

    During the past 29 years, Mrs. Lewis has maintained the collection while pursuing her own interests in the visual arts through the Corcoran and as an amateur painter. She returned to Philadelphia, the city of her birth, with the collection in 2001.


    W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, Paris, 1929 (illustrated).
    A. Schardt, Das Übersinnliche bei Paul Klee, exh. cat., Hamburg, Museum der Gegenwart, 1930, p. 37.
    J. Glaesemer, Paul Klee. Die farbigen Werke im Kunstmuseum Bern. Gemälde, Farbige, Blätter, Hinterglasbilder und Plastiken, Bern, 1976, p. 341.
    The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 2001, vol. 4, p. 251, no. 3588 (illustrated).


    Bildungsanstalt Hellerau, Sammlung moderner Kunst, 1924-1925.
    New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee: An Exhibition in Honor of the Sixtieth Birthday of the Artist, February 1940, no. 2.
    The Art Institute of Chicago, The Nineteenth International Exhibition of Watercolors, April-May 1940, no. 117.