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    Sale 1996

    Impressionist And Modern Works On Paper

    7 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 137

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)

    Heiliger Bezirk

    Price Realised  

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    Heiliger Bezirk
    dated, numbered and titled '1932 L19 heiliger Bezirk' (on the artist's mount)
    watercolor on paper laid down by the artist on paper
    Sheet size: 18 x 13 3/8 in. (45.7 x 34 cm.)
    Mount size: 25¼ x 18½ in. (64.1 x 47 cm.)
    Painted in 1932


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    Heiliger Bezirk, a complex tapestry of harmonious colors and mysterious pathways, embodies two of the major influences in Paul Klee's life and work: his seminal trip to Egypt and his lifelong appreciation of music. Playfully nicknamed the "Bauhaus Buddha" during his years as a revered teacher, artist and theorist at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau from 1920 to 1931, Klee truly believed in the power of color and compositional arrangement to transport one's senses to a higher realm of being. While the obsessive grid of interweaving bands and colorful stripes in Heiliger Bezirk may evoke the tilled landscape and light of Egypt, the rhythmical arrangement of the horizontal lines punctuated by breaks and vertical staccatos recalls a carefully composed sheet of music. Klee's fusing of the structural, architectural, natural, spiritual and lyrical is a trademark that makes him one of the most complex and fascinating artists of the early Twentieth century.

    In December 1928, Klee made a life-impacting trip to Egypt, which would profoundly inform his artistic output for the rest of his career. Will Grohmann explains the significance of Egypt for Klee:

    The past of 5000 years ago is still present there, and the agricultural pattern of the Nile Valley has hardly changed since the days of the Pharaohs. The pyramids and monuments, temples and tombs of the ancient dynasties are still standing and, with the areas of tilled and untilled land, produce a network of horizontal, vertical, and oblique lines out of which the responsive mind can read man's destiny in time and space...Klee, then, brought with him the necessary flexibility of pictorial means; what Egypt gave him was the possibility of utilizing them to produce a complete image of what he experienced there, a picture not of present appearances but of origins and changes in time--the 'ka,' the genius of the land (in Paul Klee, London, 1969, pp. 275-276)

    The visual impact of Egypt provided Klee with a new lexicon for his artwork and directly inspired the stripe paintings that soon followed. The prismatic arrangement of shimmering colors suggests the hot sun of the land, the maze of lines suggest hieroglyphics of a secret language and the flatness of the landscape. The title of the present work, Heiliger Bezirk (translated as Sacred Site), bears evidence of his veneration for the ancient land and his newfound enlightenment after this journey. Additionally, this work must have been of great importance to the artist as he inscribed the mount with his personal code 'SCl' ("Sonderklasse"), which was reserved for special works he chose to keep in his personal collection.

    Music was an integral part of Klee's life: his father was a music teacher, his mother a trained singer, his wife Lily a pianist and he was an accomplished violist himself, who religiously attended concerts and the opera. While teaching at the Bauhaus, many of Klee's lectures centered on color theory through comparison to music, in particular the ability of intersecting lines to create "structural rhythms." Klee felt that the interplay of lines, much like notes of music, held a spectrum of expressionistic possibility ranging from tranquility to turbulence. Hajo Düchting describes Klee's complex analysis of the similarities between music and painting in his lectures at the Bauhaus:

    In his endeavour to translate temporal elements (rhythms) from music into painting, Klee investigated the structure of musical compositions in more detail. Using Bach as an example, Klee explained the difference between 'individual' and 'structural,' or what he termed 'dividual' components of musical composition, concepts that he then applied to the field of painting. The 'structural' or 'dividual' element is part of a larger unit characterised by rhythmic repetitions without variation and hence divisible...The 'individual' components, on the other hand, are defined as a superior, rhythmically independent, unrepeatable and irregular unit of a composition...A third possibility would be the fusing of both rhythmic characteristics, a feature he pointed out in his excerpt from Bach's sonata (in Paul Klee, Music and Painting, Munich, 1997, pp. 35-36).

    The present work exemplifies Klee's theory of the 'dividual' (the structural horizontal bands) and the 'individual' (the intersecting vertical breaks and redirections) combining to create a harmonious and gloriously rhythmic composition, not unlike a perfect sonata.

    Heiliger Bezirk marks an apex in Klee's varied and prolific oeuvre, while it harks back to the sacredness of ancient Egypt and the natural phenomena of the land, it also moves forward with pulsating and rhythmic energy, it's all-over abstraction and expressionism both foreshadowing what would follow in modern art history.

    Provenance

    Rolf and Catherine E. Bürgi, Bern.
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel (until 1959).
    World House Galleries, New York (1959-1960).
    Clarence McKenzie Lewis, Jr., Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. (by 1960).


    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. 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 and Princeton.

    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.

    Photograph of the Lewis family in Rome, 1958.


    Literature

    M. Huggler, "Paul Klee," Künstler Lexikon der Schweiz XX, 1958-1961, p. 528.
    The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 2002, vol. 6 (1931-1933), p. 181, no. 5755 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Städtische Kunsthalle Königsberg am Wrangelturm and Museum Danzig, Deutscher Künstlerbund. Ausstellung Königsberg und Danzig, June-October 1932, no. 184.
    Kunsthalle Basel, Paul Klee, October-November 1935, no. 129.
    Kunstmuseum Bern, Paul Klee. Ausstellung in Verbindung mit der Paul-Klee-Stiftung, August-November 1956, no. 623.
    New York, World House Galleries, Paul Klee, March-April 1960, no. 26 (illustrated).