'The high esteem in which Klee, the human being as well as the artist, was held during his last years in Switzerland was due to his ability to speak indirectly to man. We sensed rather than understood his meaning. It was all there, with no discontinuity; but there was no possibility of grasping form without the connection between the different parts of this complex being. When Klee communicated something of himself, it was never more than a fragment of the whole. He was a magician, and has remained so after his death through his work' (W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1954, p. 96).
Gelände des Übermutes (Area of High Spirits) is an extraordinarily joyous and playful work that Klee created in 1937. As the artist's son Felix Klee has remembered, 'My father's last years in Berne were difficult ones even though a few Berne collectors, such as Hermann Rupf and Hannah Bürgi-Bigler more or less looked after him and made sure that he did not starve to death' (Felix Klee, quoted in Paul Klee, The Berggruen Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, exh. cat., New York, 1988, p. 49). Gelände des Übermutes is one of the several works that were bought from Klee by the Bürgi family at this time to help him during these difficult years in Berne following his exile from Germany.
Taking the form of a pictogram defining a mountain landscape with a winding path over and amidst which small red-brown stick-figures and plants seem to be jumping and dancing, the picture, executed in charcoal and sanguine on a cotton ground, is a simple and whimsical expression of joy. With its strong and magnificent meandering charcoal line weaving a calligraphic path throughout the entire surface of the white ground, the picture seems to pictorially express one of Klee's most famous adages: that drawing is simply 'taking a line for a walk'. Similarly, the joy expressed in the simple but persuasive iconography of this work seems also to reflect the manifest joy that Klee took in his work.