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

Gesetz (Law)

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Gesetz (Law)
signed 'Klee' (upper left); titled, dated and numbered 'Gesetz 1938. D18.' (on the artist's mount)
gouache on newsprint laid down by the artist on thin card
Sheet size: 19 1/8 x 12 7/8 in. (48.6 x 32.7 cm.)
Mount size: 24 7/8 x 16 5/8 in. (63 x 42.3 cm.)
Painted in 1938
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris.
Lily Klee, Bern (1940-1946).
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (1946-1947).
Richard Doetsch-Benziger, Basel (1947 and until at least 1958).
David Stössel, Zürich (until 1960).
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (by 1960).
Professor Karl Julius Anselmino, Wuppertal (1960).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
M. Bosshard-Rebmann, Paul Klee: Sammlung Richard Doetsch-Benziger, Basel, 1953, no. 54.
W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, Stuttgart, 1954, p. 325.
J. Spiller, ed., Paul Klee Das bildnerische Denken, Basel, 1956, vol. I, p. 517.
F. Klee, Paul Klee, Leben und Werk in Dokumenten, ausgewählt aus den nachgelassenen Aufzeichnungen und den unveröffentlichten Breifen, Zurich, 1960 (illustrated).
U. Bischoff, Paul Klee, Munich, 1992, p. 174, no. 82 (illustrated in color, p. 152).
P. Klee, Wachstum der Nachtpflanzen, Vogelgarten, Munich, 1992, p. 63 (illustrated in color).
C. Klingsöhr-Leroy, Paul Klee: Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Bonn, 1994, p. 69, no. 22 (illustrated in color, p. 61).
M.F. Popia, "L'estetica musicale di Paul Klee," Ph.D. diss., Università degli Studi di Genova, 2000, p. 293 (illustrated in color).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné 1934-1938, Bern, 2003, vol. 7, p. 341, no. 7239 (illustrated).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Klee, February-March 1940, p. 40, no. 35.
Kunsthalle Basel, Gedächtnis ausstellung Paul Klee, February-March 1941, p. 26, no. 251.
Basel, Galerie d'Art Moderne, Paul Klee: Tafelbilder und Aquarelle aus Privatbesitz, September-October 1949, no. 45.
Kunstmuseum Basel, Sammlung Richard Doetsch-Benziger: Malerei, Zeichnung und Plastik des 19 und 20 jahrhunderts, June-July 1956, p. 57, no. 201 (illustrated).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Paul Klee, June-July 1966, p. 64, no. 52 (illustrated).
Kunsthalle Cologne, Weltkunst aus Privatbesitz, May-August 1968, no. G 30.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Paul Klee, October 1970-January 1971, p. 47, no. 214.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Elan Vital oder das Auge des Eros, May-August 1994, p. 561, no. 396 (illustrated in color).
Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, Der expressionistische Impuls: Meisterwerke aus Wuppertals grossen Privatsammlungen, February-May 2008, p. 329 (illustrated in color).
Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, 1975-2015 (on extended loan).
Sale room notice
Please note that this work is displayed with a loaner frame for the exhibition, which is available for purchase.

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

Painted in 1938, Gesetz (Law) forms part of the immense body of work created by Paul Klee during the final years of his life, as he experienced an important rejuvenation within his art. Klee had been diagnosed with a rare skin disease, scleroderma, in 1935, the effects of which had left him bed-ridden and unable to work for much of the following year. However, by 1937 the artist was able to manage his symptoms sufficiently enough to return to work, and adapted his methods to accommodate his ill-health, sitting at a large drawing table instead of working before an easel, for example, to achieve a modicum of relief during the many hours he spent painting. The result was a tremendous out-pouring of creativity, as Klee completed hundreds upon hundreds of new works–having produced just 25 in 1936, his output jumped to 264 the following year, 489 in 1938 and, incredibly, over 1200 in 1939. In a letter to his son Felix, the artist described the extraordinary breadth and speed of his output: “Productivity is accelerating in range and at a highly accelerated tempo; I can no longer entirely keep up with these children of mine. They run away with me. There is a certain adaptation taking place, in that drawings predominate. Twelve hundred items in 1939 is really something of a record performance” (Klee, quoted in F. Klee, Paul Klee: His Life and Work in Documents, New York, 1962, p. 72).
During this period of his life Klee’s paintings were marked by an idiosyncratic pictorial language of simplified shapes and succinct graphic marks, often set against free-form patches of subdued, pastel colors that appear to float underneath the heavy black lines. In Gesetz, the plethora of marks seem to hang together in a mysterious constellation, an intricate configuration of signs and symbols that forms a secret language of ciphers whose meanings remain beyond our reach. Drawing inspiration from a variety of writing systems including the Latin alphabet, Egyptian hieroglyphs and cuneiform script, these marks oscillate between the familiar and the indecipherable, their forms echoing familiar signs and codes while also suggesting the free, semi-automatic creation of the artist. With their rough edges and painterly execution, these marks retain a clear sense of the energy of the artist’s hand, capturing the spontaneity and vigour Klee employed in their creation as he sought to channel his creative impulses into a concrete artistic expression as quickly as possible, as if he were racing against the clock as he neared the end of his life.

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