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


Paul Klee (1879-1940)
signed 'Klee' (lower right); dated, titled and numbered '1930 unerfülltes X.3 VIII' (on the artist's mount)
watercolor and pen and black ink on linen laid down on painted card
Image size: 16 x 18 ¾ in. (40.6 x 47.6 cm.)
Mount size: 19 5/8 x 25 5/8 in. (50 x 65.1 cm.)
Executed in 1930
Galerie Flechtheim, Dusseldorf and Berlin (on consignment from the artist, 1930-1934).
Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris (on consignment from the artist, 1934-1936).
J.B. Neumann (New Art Circle), Berlin and New York (acquired from the artist, 1936); sale, Plaza Art Galleries, Inc., New York, 8 May 1940, lot 47.
John Storck, Bronxville.
Acquired by the late owner, October 1975.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, 1927-1930, Bonn, 2001, vol. 5, p. 480, no. 5249 (illustrated).
Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, Paul Klee, January-February 1936, no. 30.
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Sixteenth International Exhibition of Water Colors, Pastels, Drawings and Monotypes, March-May 1937, no. 129.
New York, Neumann-Willard Gallery, Paul Klee, May-June 1939, no. 26.
Cambridge, Germanic Museum, Harvard University, Paul Klee, February-March 1940.
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore Collects, Constructivism & De Stijl, From a Private Collection, December 1983-February 1984, no. 12.
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Sale room notice
Please note the present work is numbered 'VIII' (on the artist's mount).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

By 1930, when he executed Unerfülltes, Klee had arrived at the peak of his career. He enjoyed international status as a master of contemporary art and was a prominent representative of the Bauhaus, where he had taught since 1920, first at Weimar and then at Dessau (fig. 1). On the occasion of his fiftieth birthday in December 1929, the Berlin gallerist Alfred Flechtheim gave him a large retrospective, which then traveled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Cahiers d'Art in Paris commissioned a massive volume of reproductions of his oeuvre; and he was fêted at the Bauhaus with an enormous package of gifts dropped by parachute from an airplane. According to Will Grohmann, "Klee was now one of the few artists in a position to decide the future course of art. Every exhibition of his was eagerly anticipated, and critics measured him by international standards" (Paul Klee, New York, 1954, p. 251).
Klee's art is virtually unique in the history of the 20th century in that he was the only modern artist who allowed his work to roam freely between the organic and the geometric, the constructive and the intuitive, the figurative and the abstract and between the purely linear and the wholly chromatic.
The present work, with its combination of brushed color and drawn line, expresses the dual nature of Klee’s pictorially conceived universe. Both the constructionist disciplines and the abstractionist tastes that prevailed at the Bauhaus had a significant impact on many of his works and both tendencies are evident here. “Color for him tends to represent the ‘abstract,’ otherworldly side of his vision, whereas the drawing is the means of coming to terms with the anecdotal, all too human levels of this world" (ibid., pp. 74-75).
The toned ground, created by applying the loaded brush to moist fine linen and allowing the pigment to bleed, creates an infinite cosmic backdrop, against which the marionette-like figure and outlandish geometric construction are situated, wholly removed from any familiar sense of time or place. The unexpected juxtapositions that occur between the compositional elements imbue the scene with an otherworldly quality.
In early 1930, Klee executed a number of works based on precise three-dimensional studies consisting of interlocking planes of color. Some of these works are purely mathematical and geometric in their layout, others, like Unerfülltes and Eroberer (fig. 2) are more figural and imbued with a lyrical, humorous character. Of the latter, Grohmann has written, "Far removed from earthly reality as these works are, Klee occasionally relates them to man by the addition of associative elements…Entire human figures may emerge from the schematic pattern…Any discrepancy between the structural system and the associative elements only serves to make the relationship of the two more expressive…The precise, unadorned geometry of the shapes appears to contradict their human significance to such a degree that the effect of the whole is comic--a comedy based on form” (ibid., p. 282).

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