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

Parkbild bei Regen

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Parkbild bei Regen
signed, dated and numbered 'Klee 1920/123' (lower left)
oil on card laid down on the artist's board
Sheet-size: 13 x 8¼ in. (33 x 21 cm.)
Mount-size: 17 3/8 x 12 5/8 in. (44 x 32 cm.)
Painted in 1920
Ida Bienert, Dresden (by 1933).
Fritz Bienert, Dresden and Berlin (by descent from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
W. Grohmann, Privatsammlungen neuer Kunst: Die Sammlung Ida Bienert, Dresden, Potsdam, 1933, vol. 1, pp. 14 and 21 (illustrated).
W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1969, p. 413, no. 135 (illustrated, p. 390, no. 50).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 1999, vol. 3, p. 218, no. 2468 (illustrated; with incorrect provenance).
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Paul Klee: Hans Mattis Teutsch, Gesamtschau, July-August 1921, no. 11.
Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, October-November 1929, no. 37.
Berlin, Nationalgalerie in der Orangerie des Schlosses Charlottenburg, Der Sturm: Herwarth Walden und die Europäische Avantgarde, Berlin 1912-1932, September-November 1961, p. 54, no. 95.
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Paul Klee, June-July 1966, p. 25, no. 13 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

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 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. Will 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" (op. cit., 1969, pp. 182-183).

Parkbild bei Regen is part of a group of rhythmic, wooded landscapes that Klee made in 1920, the year after he began to work in oil. The present example is numbered 123 out of 234 works from 1920, suggesting that it dates to the late spring or early summer; it was most likely painted either in the formal (if somewhat neglected) French garden of the Schlössen Suresnes, where Klee had his studio, or in the Englischer Garten nearby. Blocks of flat color, familiar from the cubist and Orphist elements in Klee's pre-war work, serve as a unifying structure for the landscape, while the dominant color scheme of green, blue, and white suggests the gentle rainfall and lush new growth of spring. Klee's goal was not the mimetic translation of observed forms into art, but rather an analogy between nature and the artist's creative work, which in his view were subject to the same laws. Anke Daemgen has explained, "Gardens fashioned by human hands offered him examples of ordered nature that corresponded to his search for ordered, rhythmically structured forms. The recurrence and repetition of formal elements emphasize the connection between nature and the surrounding space designed by human beings. Rectangles, triangles, circles, and circle segments symbolize growth and the idea of an aspiring energy through their staggered, overlapping placement and color gradations" (The Klee Universe, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, pp. 206-207).

The present work, executed in oil on card, was mounted by Klee on board; the artist then painted the border in purple, accentuating the cool tonalities of the landscape. He reserved this treatment for the works that he considered the most successful--what he referred to as panel pictures, to differentiate them from drawings or colored sheets. Grohmann has explained, "Klee made very sharp distinctions; he demoted and promoted. When a picture was not capable of living a life of its own on the wall, it was stuck on white pasteboard and became a colored sheet. 'On white it sometimes looks all right,' Klee said of such cases. On the other hand, when a sheet was sufficiently vigorous, he mounted it on pasteboard or wood and turned it into a panel" (op. cit., 1969, p. 161).

The first owner of the present painting was Ida Bienert, an important Dresden collector and patron of the arts in the period between the two World Wars. She purchased her first painting by Klee in 1915, and by the early 1930s her collection had grown to include more than forty examples of his work. Her family's mansion served as an intellectual and cultural center of Dresden; Klee was a guest there in the 1920s, as were Emil Nolde, Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, and Walter Gropius. In 1933, Grohmann published Die Sammlung Ida Bienert as the first of a projected series of monographs about major private collections of modern art in Germany.

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