• Impressionist/Modern Evening S auction at Christies

    Sale 7831

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    2 February 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 38

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)

    Geöffneter Berg

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    Geöffneter Berg
    signed 'Klee' (upper right); dated, titled and numbered '1914.95.Geöffneter Berg' (on the artist's mount)
    watercolour and pen and India ink on paper
    image size: 9 1/8 x 7 3/8 in. (23.1 x 18.9 cm.)
    mount size: 10 7/8 x 9¼ in. (27.4 x 23.5 cm.)
    Executed in 1914


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    Geoffneter Berg (Opened Mountain) is one of the finest of a small group of early near abstract works incorporating light paths and coloured circles, that Klee made in 1914. A fusion of a range of influences from Cubism and Kandinsky, to the colour studies he had made on his recent travels with August Macke in Tunisia, these paintings mark one of the first mature flowerings of Klee's art. In their use of flat, seemingly abstract planes of colour, in particular, they also mark the important influence of the work and ideas of Robert Delaunay on Klee.

    Klee had first come into contact with Delaunay's work when it was shown as part of an exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter in December 1911. Evidently impressed by what he saw, Klee sought out Delaunay at the first opportunity on a visit to Paris in April 1912. There he saw Delaunay's great canvas La Ville de Paris and many of the 'Window' pictures on which he was working at this time. Later the same year, Klee translated one of Delaunay's essays on light and colour, 'La Lumière'. Delaunay, Klee said, was 'one of the most intelligent artists of his day because he avoided in an astonishingly simple way the inconsistency of the Cubists and their destruction of material objects for the sake of construction; creating independent pictures which led a totally abstract formal life without taking motifs from nature, plastic structures that are almost as far removed from the repetitive character of the patterning of rugs as one of Bach's fugues' (Paul Klee, as quoted by Will Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1954, p. 142).

    In Geoffneter Berg, Klee presents what appears to be the interior scene of a mountain as a complex and dynamic structure of different colour and light, combining and interacting in a way that poetically suggests vibrant and powerful elemental forces at work beneath the earth. A visual play and counterbalance of light and dark tones, articulating Klee's often stated desire to be able 'improvise' freely with the 'watercolours in his paintbox as if they were a keyboard', this dynamic abstract structure comprised solely of vibrant cones and circles bestows on Klee's landscape an aura of magic and mystery. Out of abstract elements of form 'through their unification in concrete beings' Klee was later to write in his Creative Credo, 'will finally be created a formal cosmos which so closely resembles the Creation that a mere breath suffices to bring life to the expression of religious feelings and religion itself' (Paul Klee, 'Creative Credo' in The Inward Vision: Watercolours, Drawings and Writings by Paul Klee, New York, 1959, pp. 5-10).

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.


    Provenance

    Israel Ber Neumann (Graphisches Kabinett, New Art Circle, Neumann Gallery), Berlin and New York.
    W.W. Crocker, Burlingame, California; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 25 February 1970, lot 7.
    Mr and Mrs Jack Wolgin, Philadelphia, by 1970; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 1977, lot 254a.
    Henry M. Reed, New Jersey, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Christie's, New York, 14 November 1996, lot 178.
    Wolfgang Wittrock Kunsthandel, Dusseldorf, by 2000.
    Anonymous sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 6 June 2008, lot 70.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Literature

    P. Selz, German Expressionist Painting, Berkeley, 1957, p. 296 (illustrated pl. 135).
    R. Suter-Raeber, 'Paul Klee. Der Durchbruch zur Farbe und zum abstrakten Bild', in exh. cat., Paul Klee. Das Früwerk 1883-1922, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 1979-1980, p. 152f (illustrated).
    C. Lenz, 'Klee und Delaunay', in exh. cat., Delaunay und Deutschland, Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst im Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1985-1986, p. 235.
    J. Anger, Modernism and the Gendering of Paul Klee (Dissertation), Brown University, Providence, 1997, p. 69.
    The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, catalogue raisonné, 1913-1918, vol. 2, London, 2000, no. 1195 (illustrated p. 170).


    Exhibited

    Berlin, Galerie der Sturm (Herwarth Walden), Albert Bloch, Paul Klee, March 1916, no. 19.
    Basel, Galerie Corray, Der Sturm, July 1917, no. 48.
    Paris, Galerie Pierre, La Peinture Surréaliste, November 1925.
    Philadelphia, The Art Alliance, Paul Klee, Paintings, Drawings, Prints, March - April 1944, no. 33.
    San Francisco, Museum of Art, on loan, 1967-1969 (no. 70.67.9).
    Philadelphia, Museum of Art, on loan, Summer 1970 (no. 18-1970-17).
    San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery, Color and Form, November 1971 - January 1972, no. 35; this exhibition later travelled to Oakland, Art Museum, January - March 1972 and Seattle, Museum of Art, March - May 1972.