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Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Änhlich wie 147 mit schlanker grüner Tanne
signed ‘Klee’ (lower left); dated and numbered ‘1917/148’ (on the artist’s mount)
gouache, pen and black ink over charcoal on paper laid down by the artist on card
Image size: 8 ½ x 5 ¼ in. (21.7 x 13.3 cm.)
Mount size: 14 x 10 1/8 in. (35.8 x 25.9 cm.)
Executed in 1917
Berggruen et Cie., Paris.
Giuseppe Nahmad, Marbella.
Anon. sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 23 June 1982, lot 378.
Galleria Foscherari, Bologna.
Private collection, Italy.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
W. Kersten and O. Okuda, Paul Klee: Im Zeichen der Teilung, exh. cat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1995, p. 333 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, 1913-1918, Bern, 2000, vol. 2, p. 429, no. 1832 (illustrated).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

The title of the present gouache, which Klee dated and numbered “1917/148”, translates as “Similar to 147 with Slender Green Fir Tree”. Number 147 is the preceding work, which Klee called Strenge Landschaft in Blau (“Austere Landscape in Blue”; Klee Foundation, vol. 2, no. 1831). The present landscape, however, is in no way so austere; the contrast of the folded, flattened triangular architectural elements with echoing forms in the perspectival foreground–including at lower left a black arrow, a signature Klee motif–generates a varied and lively spatial tapestry. The addition of Klee’s spiky sign for a tall, stately green fir tree, silhouetted against the cascading fluid washes of the hillside background, further animates this composition.
Klee painted Änliche wie 147 toward the end of 1917. The final work he created that year bears the number 162, a considerable output, considering his circumstances. The First World War would last nearly another year. But Klee was safe, not something he could have counted on when he was called up for service on 11 March 1915. On the same day he received his draft notice, a telegram arrived from Maria Marc with the terrible news that her husband Franz–Klee’s close friend and fellow painter in the Blaue Reiter–had been killed on 4 March at Verdun. The battles in France during the early weeks of the war had claimed the life of August Macke, another Blaue Reiter colleague, with whom Klee had taken his revelatory journey to Tunisia in 1914. Klee reported for training in the Bavarian infantry reserves, which before long might have destined him, too, to end up a casualty on the front lines.
Fortunately, Klee was reassigned in August 1916 to clerical duties with an air force reserve unit in Schleissheim, and in January 1917 he was attached to the Royal Bavarian Flying School in Gersthofen. His duties included painting camouflage on warplanes, then transporting them by rail to destinations near the front lines. Klee was rarely in danger, however, and could even find time to paint when he was back in Gersthofen, where he rented a room off-base in which to work. He contributed to group shows and shared dual billing in exhibitions at Herwarth Walden’s gallery Der Sturm, Berlin, in March 1916 and February 1917, events which the artist counted as his first significant successes.
Hardly any of Klee’s wartime works allude to the ongoing conflict, which probably accounted in part for their appeal to collectors at that time. “Using a simple vocabulary of geometric forms and sensitive, vibrant colors,” Jürgen Glaesemer has written, “he invented his own cosmic landscapes, with animate creatures, animals, plants, and heavenly bodies of all kinds. His simple forms and evocative colors give rise to a multitude of combinations; independent life is brought into being, and with seeming inadvertence, everything joins to everything else in constantly changing arrangements" (Paul Klee, The Colored Works in the Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, 1979, p. 42).
Much of Klee’s wartime production reflects the influence of Cubism, apparent here in the repetition of triangular motifs. Änliche wie 147 moreover heralds a more mysteriously lyrical approach to composition, such as the artist may have hinted at in his diary entry of 10 July 1917: “Yesterday I was able to paint well. New work is preparing itself; the demoniacal shall be melted into simultaneity with the celestial, the dualism shall not be treated as such, but in its complementary oneness. The conviction is already present. It is questionable how far this can be achieved in my present circumstances, which are only halfway favorable. Yet even the briefest moment, if is a good one, can produce a document of a new pitch of intensity" (quoted in F. Klee, ed., The Diaries of Paul Klee, Berkeley, 1964, entry 1079, pp. 372-373).

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