• Impressionist Modern Works on  auction at Christies

    Sale 2218

    Impressionist Modern Works on Paper

    4 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 120

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)

    Structural II

    Price Realised  

    Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    Structural II
    signed 'Klee' (upper right)
    gouache on paper laid down by the artist on board
    Image size: 10 1/8 x 8¼ in. (25.7 x 21 cm.)
    Mount size: 11 x 8 7/8 in. (27.9 x 22.5 cm.)
    Painted in 1924


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    Klee joined the Weimar Bauhaus in January 1921, and the interdisciplinary program of the school, with its strong emphasis on architecture and design, had a significant impact on Klee's work during the twenties. He investigated the spatial possibilities of the picture plane in new ways, while retaining the influences of Cubist structure and the color theories of Robert Delaunay's Orphist movement. He took an idiosyncratic approach to the rules of classical perspective and utilized architectural forms in numerous works during this period, while at the same time retaining his customary manner of constructing pictures, in which imagery is drawn on a vaguely empty space, or integrated within a complex structure of color planes.

    The present work is the second in a series of "structural" compositions which evolve from abstract renderings of an imaginary architecture to denoted representations of "curtains," "gardens," and "castles." Even in the later more literal works, the dense and maze-like assembly of lines prohibits perspective and necessitates a symbolic reading of space. The composition is rendered in brightly colored lines set against a rich black ground, producing a strongly rhythmic character. Ann Temkin writes, "The pictures take on the ability of music to produce meaning from its own structural elements, to construct pattern and sign by means of repetition and interval, accent and rest" ("Klee and the Avant-Garde, 1912-1940," Paul Klee, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 27). At the same time, the painting has the whimsical quality of a child's drawing or fantasy landscape, heightened by the absence of perspective. Commenting on architectural imagery in Klee's oeuvre, Werner Schmalenbach concludes, "With architecture one usually associates the static, stable, and constructional. Klee's architecture is alive, not static; unstable, not stable; and intuitive, not constructional. What holds good for construction and geometry in his work also applies to perspective: it is but one possibility among many" (Paul Klee, Munich, 1986, p. 54).

    In the wake of World War II, New York dealer Karl Nierendorf cut down the artist's mount from the present work to remove its German titling in order to placate postwar anti-German sentiment. The artist's dating, numbering and titling are still partially visible, however.

    Provenance

    Lily Klee, Bern (1940-1946).
    Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (1946-1947).
    Karl Nierendorf Gallery, New York (1947).
    Burton and Emily Tremaine, Meriden, Connecticut (by 1947); sale, Christie's, New York, 5 November 1991, lot 8.
    Anon. (acquired at the above sale); Sotheby's, New York, 11 May 2000, lot 240.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.


    Literature

    C. Giedion-Welcker, Paul Klee, London, 1952, p. 103 (illustrated).
    J. Spiller, ed., Paul Klee, Das bildnerische Denken, Form-und Gestaltungslehre, Basel/Stuttgart, 1956, vol. 1, p. 263, no. 517.
    M. Huggler, "Paul Klee," Künstler Lexikon der Schweiz XX. Jahrhundert, Frauenfeld, 1961, p. 525.
    J. Spiller, ed., Paul Klee, Unendliche Naturgeschichte, Prinzipielle Ordnung der bildnerischen Mittel verbunden mit Naturstudium, und konstruktive Kompositionswege, Form-und Gestaltungslehre, Basel/Stuttgart, 1970, vol. 2, p. 202 (illustrated).
    The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 2001, vol. 4, p. 219, no. 3494 (illustrated).


    Exhibited

    Munich, Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Paul Klee, Zweite Gesamtausstellung 1920-1925, May-June 1925, no. 142.
    Kunstmuseum Bern, Paul Klee, Ausstellung in Verbindung mit der Paul-Klee-Stiftung, August-November 1956, no. 514.
    Kunsthalle Hamburg, Paul Klee, February 1956-January 1957, no. 177. Kunsthalle Cologne, Paul Klee, Das Werk der Jahre 1919-1933, Gemälde, Handzeichnungen, Druckgraphik, April-June 1979, no. 135.
    Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, The Spirit of Modernism, The Tremaine Collection, 20th Century Masters, February-April 1984.
    Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Delaunay to de Kooning, Modern Masters from the Tremaine Collection and the Wadsworth Atheneum, May-September 1991.