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

Gedenkblatt E

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Gedenkblatt E
signed, dated and numbered 'Klee 1924 122' (lower centre); titled and inscribed 'S-Kl Gedenkblatt E.' (on the artist's mount)
oil and pen and ink on chalk-primed paper, laid down on the artist's mount
Image: 15 3/4 x 11 1/4 in. (40 x 28.5 cm.)
The artist's mount: 22 3/4 x 17 1/8 in. (57.9 x 43.5 cm.)
Executed in 1924
Lily Klee, Bern (no. 1847), by descent from the artist, in 1940, until 1946.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (no. ZCEJ), by 1946, until 1948.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (no. 5169), by 1948.
Philippe Dotremont, Brussels, by 1948, until at least 1954.
Galerie d'Art Moderne, Basel.
Private collection, Germany.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 4992), by whom acquired from the above, on 15 December 1966.
Private collection, Milan, by whom acquired from the above, on 10 July 1971, and thence by descent.
A. De Ridder, De Levende Kunst Gezien Te Venetië, Brussels, 1958, p. 34 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, 1923-1926, Bern, 2000, no. 3490, p. 218 (illustrated).
Munich, Hans Goltz, Paul Klee, Zweite Gesamtausstellung 1920-1925, May - June 1925, no. 36, n.p.
Bern, Kunsthalle, Der grosse Bär, Malergruppe Ascona, November 1925, no. 60, p. 6.
Dessau, Anhaltischer Gemäldegalerie, Paul Klee- Aquarelle aus zehn Jahren, 1920-1929, October - November 1929 (no cat.)
Basel, Galerie d'Art Moderne Marie-Suzanne Feigel, Paul Klee, November - December 1945.
Venice, XXIV Biennale di Venezia, Central Pavilion, Paul Klee Retrospective, June - October 1948, no. 10.
Ostend, Palais des Thermes, Gloires de la peinture moderne, Hommage à James Ensor, July - August 1949, no. 84, p. 11 (illustrated n.p.; with incorrect medium).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Collectie Philippe Dotremont, Spring 1954, no. 40, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Surrealismus: Traum des Jahrhunderts, October 1995 - March 1996, no. 45, p. 91 (illustrated p. 46).
Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee, Paul Klee, Sonderklasse, unverkäuflich, October 2014 - February 2015, pp. 64, 81, 97, 312 & 537 (illustrated fig. 9, p. 64; illustrated fig. 34, p. 81; illustrated fig. 22, p. 97; illustrated fig. 134, p. 312; illustrated again n.p.); this exhibition later travelled to Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste, January - May 2015.
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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Created in 1924, Gedenkblatt E. (Remembrance Sheet E.) illustrates the deeply contemplative nature of Paul Klee’s meditations on the concepts of memory, thought and artistic inspiration, subjects which underpinned his creative musings throughout his career. A kaleidoscopic array of mysterious signs converge and overlap one another, suspended within a strange, ethereal space that appears to be made up of multiple layers of flat, geometric forms, their sharp edges reminiscent of snippets of paper arranged in a collage. The imagery ranges from otherworldly figures to abstract patterns, boldly delineated letters to organic plant-like elements that appear to have been plucked directly from nature. As the title suggests, this compendium of signs occupies an important place in the artist’s process of creation, recording a selection of the endless ideas which floated around his mind, each one the germ of a potential composition, just waiting to be realised.

The theme of memory and the passage of time had been a long-standing concern in Klee’s work, dating back to his seminal sojourn in Tunisia in the spring of 1914, where he had begun work on the multi-layered composition Teppich der Erinnerung (Carpet of Memory) (Paul Klee Foundation, no. 1295). The first in a series of complex aides-mémoires that would emerge over the next decade, Klee condensed a number of different experiences and visual sensations from his trip into a single composition, using a personal vocabulary of graphic symbols and associated imagery to create a collage of remembrances. Like short-hand notes, quickly jotted down before they slipped from his mind, these sign-like abbreviations were intended to re-activate Klee’s memory upon his return home, and one day feed the artist’s imagination to produce something entirely individual and spectacular in its beauty. According to Will Grohmann, these works provided the viewer with a unique insight into the act of creation itself: ‘The combined effect of the symbols results in a fabric of the utmost complexity which embraces all—the thing itself, its origin and growth, its physical meaning and metaphysical import, the interpretation of past, present and future—so that finally the beholder is himself included in the sublime process of Creation’ (W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1951, p. 191).

In marking the sheet with the insignia ‘S Kl’, Klee placed Gedenkblatt E. among his so-called Sonder Klasse (special class) of compositions, a designation he reserved for works he believed to be of particularly high artistic quality or personal importance. These works, which the artist reserved in a personal collection and intended never to sell, represented something of an artistic biography for Klee, with each inclusion offering a special insight into a particular aspect of his career. Begun in 1928 following the establishment of the Klee Society dedicated to supporting the artist, this separate class of works was constructed to include examples from every stage of the artist’s oeuvre, charting the various developments his technique and style had undergone over the years. Klee was especially keen to include works which had been shown in important exhibitions during his time at the Bauhaus in Weimar, even going so far as to write ‘unsalable’ or ‘belongs to me’ on several sheets. Though the deteriorating political climate in Europe would later force the artist to release some of these works for sale, the majority remained with Klee until his death, a personal reminder of the heights his creative imagination could reach.

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