Paul Klee (1879-1940)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF AYALA ZACKS ABRAMOV
Paul Klee (1879-1940)


Paul Klee (1879-1940)
signed 'Klee' (upper right)
oil and gouache on linen laid down on burlap
17¾ x 35½ in. (45.2 x 90.1 cm.)
Executed in 1939
Lily Klee, Bern, by descent from the artist in 1940.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern, 1946-1947.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (no. 5104), 1947-1952.
Samuel & Ayala Zacks, Toronto & Jerusalem, from 1952, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. Huggler, Paul Klee, Die Malerei als Blick in den Kosmos, Stuttgart, 1969, no. 206.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 8, 1939, Bern, 2003, no. 8044, p. 176 (illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Paul Klee, Neue Werke, February - March 1940, no. 302.
Lucerne, Galerie Rosengart, Paul Klee, June - September 1948, no. 49; this exhibition later travelled to Antwerp, Galerie Artes and Liège, Association pour le progrès Intellectuel et Artistique de la Wallonie.
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Paul Klee, Austellung in Verbindung mit der Paul-Klee-Stiftung, August - November 1956, no. 719.
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, December 1956 - January 1957, no. 358.
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, on loan from circa 2002 - January 2012.
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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

‘Very quietly, just one individual amidst the thousandfold, loud dying of these days - the quietest, the most individual of all present-day artists has passed away. For a long time those close to him had been anxious about this precious life. For even in the last year a harvest ripened in the cycle of harvests in this incomparably fruitful life - a harvest that seemed to add something quite new to all those brought in before. Anyone who had to watch how the sap began to dry up in the roots from which the body lives might see in the apparently more powerful tone of these late works something like the triumph of the creative will over the physical’ (Georg Schmidt, speech at Klee's funeral service in the chapel of the Bürgerspital, Bern, 2 July 1940).

Überwintern (Overwinter) is one of an extraordinary sequence of works that poured out of Klee in the last full year of his life. Marking in some respects a race against time on the part of an artist who knew he was dying, these works also signify a remarkable late flowering of his art as he stood on the threshold between, what he was fervently convinced were two separate but interconnected realms of existence. ‘Death is not an evil,’ Klee remarked at this time, ‘for does one know which is more important, life now, or the life that is to come.’

A large work painted on a roughly cut strip of jute, Überwintern is a stark and powerful winter-landscape scene executed in the intuitive, poetic-script that distinguishes so many of Klee’s last great landscape paintings of this period, from Früchte auf Blau to Reicher Hafen. Marking in some respects a revisiting of themes and motifs from his earlier oeuvre, the intentionally raw execution of this work and Klee’s deliberate leaving of the energy of his brushstrokes visible on the rough surface accentuate the painterliness of the work and the spontaneity and vigour he has brought to its creation.

This aspect of the painting reflects the increasing openness of Klee’s approach to his work, which appeared to be flowing so freely out of him. ‘The production, with escalating speed, grows into escalating proportions,’ Klee noted at this time. ‘I can hardly keep up with such prodigies. They simply jump out. A certain adjustment occurs because drawings predominate. Anyway, 1200 items for the year 1939 is a record achievement’ (P. Klee, Briefe, vol. 11, p. 1295, quoted in S. Rewald, Paul Klee - The Berggruen Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, p. 256).

Although Klee was confined to a comparatively small studio space in Bern at this time, it was there that he created some of the largest and most ambitious works of his career. At nearly a metre long, Überwintern is also a comparatively large-format painting for Klee in this respect. Revelling in a new rawness and boldness of scale of many such works, Klee also welcomed the new heavier materiality that the freer approach of his last years brought to his creations. ‘We mustn’t be discouraged by the fact that not only easily digestible matter will weave its way in [to the pictures],’ he wrote to his daughter-in-law around this time. ‘We must continue to hope that heavy material can keep a balance with other forces. This certainly makes life a more thrilling business than if it were Biedermeier-bourgeois. And each of us must take sweet and sour from the two bowls according to taste…’ (Klee, quoted in F. Klee, ed., Paul Klee, Briefe an die Familie 1893-1940, Cologne, 1979, p. 1282).

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