Paul Klee (1879-1940)
MASTERWORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF ANTONI TÀPIESChristie’s is honoured to present a selection of Twentieth Century Masterworks from the personal collection of Antoni Tàpies. Offered across a series of auctions throughout 2017 and 2018, these exceptional works offer a unique insight into the powerful bond that existed between this revolutionary artist and the paintings, sculptures and artefacts he encountered over the course of his lifetime. Highly intimate objects, gathered together over the course of his meandering collecting journey, these objects were closely connected to Tàpies’s own artistic practice and reflect the seminal relationships, friendships and concepts that inspired him throughout his artistic career. Each work in the collection stands as a testament to the critical, perceptive and engaged way of looking that Tàpies was renowned for, and the passion he had for the works of his artistic and cultural forebears. Gathering together artworks and objects apparently epochs and cultures apart, Tàpies collected passionately, but in a unique and idiosyncratic manner. An avid reader of ancient and Eastern philosophy, he held a deep fascination for the concept of ‘authentic reality’, a state of awakening which could be triggered by contact with a piece of art. As his son, Toni has explained: ‘For Tàpies, an artwork had to be like a talisman. A talisman capable of transmitting wisdom, thought and answers to the deepest doubts and concerns that may face a human being’ (T. Tàpies, ‘A Personal View’, in Tàpies: Lo Sguardo Dell’Artista, exh. cat., Venice, 2013, p. 27). It was this energy, the unique spirit of an artwork, that Tàpies sought in all he collected. It was a power which obsessed him, which he attempted to absorb, to digest and nurture, to combine with his own artistic vision, and finally, to translate into the gestures, strokes and marks he put down on his canvases. Each of these carefully selected works of art, chosen for their visual and spiritual presence, provided Tàpies with a personal library of visual stimuli, which acted as a catalyst for his own creative impulses and shaped and influenced his art throughout his career. The importance of these artworks in Tàpies’s everyday experience is evident – these are the images and shapes which captured his imagination, comforted him, inspired him and obsessed him on a daily basis. Each of these artworks provided essential nourishment for Tàpies’s creativity, opening a path for his artistic evolution and pushing his work to new levels of dynamic expression.
Paul Klee (1879-1940)

Weibsteufel, die Welt beherrschend. (She-Devil, Dominating the World)

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Weibsteufel, die Welt beherrschend. (She-Devil, Dominating the World)
signed 'Klee' (lower right); dated, numbered and inscribed '1921/73 Weibsteufel, die Welt beherrschend.*' (on the artist's mount)
watercolour and oil transfer drawing on paper laid down on the artist's mount
Image: 17 3/4 x 11 in. (45 x 28 cm.)
Artist's mount: 20 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (51.3 x 35.7 cm.)
Executed in 1921
Karl Nierendorf, Berlin & Cologne.
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (Schlossmuseum), Weimar, 1923-1930.
Lily Klee, Bern, 1940-1946.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern, 1946-1947.
Karl Nierendorf, New York, by 1947; his estate, New York, 1947-1948.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1948-1973.
Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Paris, until 1981.
Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo, by 1981.
Gallery Kasahara, Osaka, by 1981.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, 18 June 1986, lot 391.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel, by 1986.
Galerie Lelong, Paris & Zurich, by 1988.
Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, and thence by descent to the present owner.
M. Rosenthal, 'Paul Klee’s "Tight-rope walker": An exercise in balance', in Arts Magazine, vol. 53, no. 1, New York, September 1978, p. 111, footnote 11.
A. Tàpies, El arte y sus lugares, Madrid, 1999, p. 202 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1919-1922, Bern, 1999, no. 2664, p. 307 (illustrated pp. 284 & 307).
M. Dávila, ed., exh. cat., Tàpies: In perspective, Barcelona, 2004, p. 144 (illustrated).
Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Kronprinzenpalais, Paul Klee, February 1923.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee, October 1947, no. 20, n.p..
Tokyo, Fuji Television Gallery, Exhibition of Paul Klee, October - November 1981, no. 7, pp. 66-67 (illustrated p. 23); this exhibition later travelled to Osaka, Gallery Kasahara, November - December 1981.
Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, Paul Klee, April - June 1998, p. 219 (illustrated p. 143); this exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, June - October 1998.
Barcelona, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Art and Utopia: Limited Action, June - September 2004, no. 281, pp. 165 & 389 (illustrated p. 164; titled 'Weissteufel [sic], die Weld beherrschend').
Venice, Palazzo Fortuny, Tàpies. Lo sguardo dell'artista, June - November 2013, p. 64 (illustrated; with incorrect medium).
Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Tàpies. An artist's collection, June 2015 - January 2016, no catalogue.

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Lot Essay

'In Klee's work there's a complete synthesis of all these seminal ideas which went into modern art' -Antoni Tàpies.

Composed of a series of thin, delicate black lines, the ‘She-Devil’ at the heart of Paul Klee’s Weibsteufel, die Welt beherrschend (She-Devil, Dominating the World) appears as a strange hybrid creature, a dangerously enigmatic figure whose identity and intentions remain beyond our comprehension. While her shapely legs, encased in a pair of high heeled, leather boots, and exposed breasts clearly evoke an image of a contemporary, sexual woman, the upper portions of her form are a mixture of mechanical, man-made objects - her ‘face’ appears to be made of an elongated sheet of metal or wood, its surface curling upwards, her ‘eyes’ a pair of spoked-wheels. Cast against a field of rich, pink hues, she illustrates Klee’s remarkable ability to combine the humorous with the monstrous, the organic with the mechanical, to create an enigmatic, otherworldly creature, endlessly intriguing in the multiplicity of potential meanings she proposes.

Created in 1921, this intricately executed work is a beautiful example of the technical complexity of Klee’s method of oil transfer drawing, an innovative technique he had pioneered in 1919 and called 'Ölfarbzeichnungen' (oil-colour drawings). In this process, Klee would cover one side of a sheet of Japan paper with a thin film of black oil paint which, when it had dried sufficiently, could be used like a piece of carbon paper to transfer the artist’s preliminary drawing on to another sheet. Carefully tracing the contours of the drawing with a metal needle, Klee used this method to create a new version of the image, altering the quality and appearance of the line as he applied varying degrees of pressure during the translation process. The result is a softer, more granular line, which appears to gradually fade in and out of view as it traverses the page, while small smudges of oil paint, accidentally pressed through by the artist’s drawing hand as he completed the tracing, lend the composition a greater sense of texture. For Klee, oil transfer drawings offered him an opportunity to introduce colour into his oeuvre without having to paint up to the line, or to colour in his forms. The oil paint would repel the sumptuous watercolour washes that he used to fill his backgrounds, their rich colours and subtly shifting tonalities, adding new atmospheric effects to the composition.

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