Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Paul Klee (1879-1940)

rot/grn orange/blau

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
rot/grn orange/blau
signed 'Klee' (upper right); dated and numbered '1919 105' (lower left on the mount)
watercolor on paper mounted by the artist on board
Sheet size: 9 x 6 in. (24.8 x 16.5 cm.)
Mount size: 10 x 7 in. (26.7 x 17.8 cm.)
Painted in 1919
Hans Goltz, Munich (1920).
Nierendorf Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by Harry Torczyner in 1946.
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Lawyers Collect, January 1965. New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Early 20th Century European Masters, March-April 1987, no. 30 (titled Village).

Lot Essay

This work is recorded under no. 1919/105 in the artist's Werkkatalog and will be sold with a photo-certificate from the Paul Klee Stiftung who have kindly confirmed its authenticity.

In his series of paintings executed in 1912 titled Fentres (Windows), Robert Delaunay made a significant and influential contribution to the growing trend towards abstraction in early modern painting. While essentially Cubist in conception, Delaunay's grid-like, prismatic structure eschews the representational aspect of Cubism; the artist uses the essential simplicity of his multi-faceted forms to project the purity and nuance of light as manifest in color.

The impact of Delaunay's experiments in form and color were direct and far-reaching among young German artists of the pre-World War I generation; indeed, Delaunay's theories were arguably more significant to them than the pioneering Cubism of Picasso and Braque. Delaunay's example was critical to Klee's maturation as a painter in the period 1914-1919. Klee had used grid-like structures as early as 1914 in his Tunisian watercolors. As he explored Delaunay's ideas, he moved in his own direction toward a flat color-theme format.

Delaunay used transparent color to create pictorial depth,
but there is no real, stable structure to that depth. It is
a jumble of fragments and facets, like a box of broken pieces
of colored glass. Unlike eighteenth-century polyphonic music
it cannot be analyzed as separate component layers. In the music that Klee so revered, each voice or independent theme constitutes a layer of auditory depth, and each such layer can be isolated and examined independently. In Delaunay's Windows, where the whole space is so thoroughly intermixed, there is no possibility for independent themes to exist. Though transparent color was Delaunay's means of control, he had no means of controlling transparent color depth. In other words, Delaunay's concern for a 'dynamic poetry' of color had led him toward dynamic, unstable, formats: Klee's intensive and rigorous grounding in musical thought was gradually leading him toward very stable, static compositional structures, in which the individual composition would provide the necessary dynamism. (A. Kogan, Paul Klee: Art & Music, Ithaca, New York, 1983, pp. 60-61)

The present work may be read as a hillside town, showing the stacked architectural forms that for Klee represented the evolution and ideal of human community. However, in his title Klee emphasizes the abstract, non-representational bias of his composition; before it is anything we may link to the world of objects, the picture is an arrangement of colors. This tendency remains a fundamental polarity in Klee's overall pictorial conception; while he may populate his pictures with all manner of imaginary creatures, he returns again and again to the abstract and contemplative purity of architecture and color.

Related Articles

View all
The best exhibitions of summer auction at Christies

More from Twentieth Century Art

View All
View All