Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Property from a Distinguished New York Collector
Paul Klee (1879-1940)

Versprengter Reiter

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Versprengter Reiter
signed 'Klee' (lower center)
oil on canvas in the artist's painted frame
20 7/8 x 17 in. (53.3 x 43.1 cm.)
Painted in 1929
Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and Dusseldorf (1929).
Elmer Rice, New York (acquired from the above, July 1932); Estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 3 April 1968, lot 34.
Judith Riklis, New York (acquired at the above sale); Estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, 3 November 2008, lot 62.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
E. Von. Sydow, "Paul Klee, Galerie A. Flechtheim," Die Kunstauktion, October 1929.
K.J. Hirsch, "Malír Paul Klee," Musaion, December 1929, p. 210 (illustrated).
R. Crevel, Paul Klee, Paris, 1930, p. 59 (illustrated).
J.B. Neumann, ArtLover, vol. 3, no. 1, 1930, p. 6 (illustrated).
A.H. Barr, Jr., "Paul Klee," Omnibus, 1931, p. 206 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, 1927-1930, Bonn, 2001, vol. 5, p. 370, no. 4990 (illustrated).
Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, October-November 1929, no. 120 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Paul Klee, March-April 1930, p. 16, no. 54.
Dusseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen and Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, June-July 1931, p. 11, no. 74.
New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), Paul Klee, March-April 1938, no. 31.
New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin) and Willard Gallery, Paul Klee, October-November 1940, no. 66.

Lot Essay

Painted in 1929, Versprengter Reiter (Rider Astray) is a magnificent large-scale oil depicting a horseman atop his steed, executed during Klee’s last year at the Bauhaus. The rider appears to be holding a lance in his left hand, possibly alluding to Saint George. Writing on the human presence in Klee’s work, Christina Thompson notes, "Klee's observations of the human psyche seldom appear as self-referential character studies in which the individual occupies the attention. Klee instead presents the human being as a creature perpetually in dialogue with his surroundings. As with everything else on earth, the human being can also only exist as a part of the greater whole. He is thereby not just part of the creative cosmos in a biological sense, but rather, as a member of society, he is also a micro-particle of the social universe" (The Klee Universe, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 131). She continues: "Klee thereby presents us with character portraits, which in their ambiguity always keep an interpretative back door open" (ibid., p. 132).
In 1929 and 1930, Klee executed several works based on precise three-dimensional studies of rectilinear shapes. Some of these works are purely mathematical and geometric in their layout, others, such as the present painting, 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).
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. In Versprengter Reiter, he brings together many of these elements: the emerald toned ground creates a cosmic backdrop, against which the horseman and his steed, composed entirely of geometric lines are situated.
The present painting was included in Klee’s solo-exhibition held at The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1930. Alfred Barr, Jr., the museum’s founding director, strove to introduce American audiences to European avant-garde art, and chose Klee to be the first living European artist to receive a one-person exhibition there.

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