Paul Klee (1879-1940)
dated, numbered and inscribed '1920.1. Afrikanisch' (on the artist's mount); bears signature
watercolor and oil transfer on paper laid down on the artist's mount
Sheet size: 12 x 9 1/8 in. (30.5 x 23.3 cm.)
Mount size: 12¾ x 9 7/8 in. (32.2 x 25 cm.)
Executed in 1920
Galerie Neue Kunst (Hans Goltz), Munich (July 1920).
Acquired by the family of the present owners, circa 1935.
M. Benz-Zauner, Werkanalytische Untersuchungen zu den Tunesien-Aquarellen Paul Klees, Frankfurt, 1984, p. 180.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 1999, vol. 3, p. 153, no. 2346.
Munich, Galerie Neue Kunst (Hans Goltz), Paul Klee, May-June 1920, no. 233.

Lot Essay

Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

In December 1918, a month after the armistice ending the First World War was signed, Klee was discharged from the German army and returned to Munich, the center of his pre-war activities. Over the course of the next two years, he significantly expanded his range of both subject matter and artistic media, and achieved his first real measure of fame for his work. In October 1919 he signed a three-year contract with the dealer Hans Goltz; the following spring, Goltz mounted a retrospective of more than 350 of Klee's paintings, drawings, and etchings, which included the present work and represented something of a sensation in Munich.

Soon after, two monographs on Klee were published, and the artist's own statement of his expressive aims appeared in the anthology Creative Credo. Finally, in November 1920, Klee received an invitation from Walter Gropius to join the faculty of the newly founded Bauhaus in Weimar; he left Munich two months later to join this exacting community of artists and architects. William Grohmann has written, "If Klee, like Marc, had been fated to die young, what he produced before 1920 would still have made him not only one of the most inspiring, but also one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. The period that preceded the Bauhaus is more than simply the foundation for his later work; it is a decisive section of Klee's art and of his century's...In the oil paintings of 1919 and 1920, mostly landscapes, Klee achieves a firmness of form and an objectivity of expression as never before. They comprise the most important works he produced before going to Weimar" (Paul Klee, London, 1954, pp. 152 and 182-183).

The present intricate composition is based on the pencil drawing Hafenscene, now in the collection of the Paul Klee Foundation in Bern (The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., no. 2402). Klee's interest in experimenting with various materials is very much in evidence in his oil transfer paintings. "Klee used watercolours, tempera and oils; also watercolours and oils combined, most frequently in a technique in which he imprinted the design in oil paint on a watercolour ground, obtaining a tense, two-layer effect" (ibid., p. 160). Interestingly, the present work is titled Nordafrikanisch in the artist's workbook and Afrikanisch on the mount. This discrepancy is not unusual, and the shorter title was used in the exhibition at the Galerie Neue Kunst (Hans Goltz) in the spring of 1920.

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