PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN FAMILY COLLECTION
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Kleines Blumenstilleben

Details
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Kleines Blumenstilleben
signed, dated and numbered ‘Klee 1926 F.4.’ (upper left); signed again, dated, numbered and inscribed '1926 F.4. Kleines Blumenstilleben Klee' (on the reverse of the artist's frame)
oil and gouache on board, in the artist's original frame
13 1/8 x 7 ¾ in. (33.5 x 19.8 cm.) including the artist's frame
Painted in 1926
Provenance
Lily Klee, Bern, by descent from the artist in 1940, until 1946.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern, by 1946.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne, by whom acquired from the above, in 1952.
Kleeman Galleries, Munich & New York (no. K6694), by whom acquired from the above, in 1952.
Private collection, Italy, by whom acquired in the 1960s, and thence by descent.
Literature
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, 1923-1926, Bern, 2000, no. 4106, p. 477 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy Galleries, Forty-First Annual Exhibition of the Society of Scottish Artists, December 1934 - January 1935, no. 142, p. 29 (titled 'Still Life').
Albuquerque, Museum of Albuquerque, Early Twentieth Century European Masterpainters, June - July 1977.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Sale room notice
Please note the correct medium for this work is oil and gouache on board, in the artist's original frame. The correct dimensions are 13 1/8 x 7 ¾ in. (33.5 x 19.8 cm.) including the artist's frame.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay


Throughout his artistic career, Paul Klee regarded the study of nature – its eternal rhythms and cycles, processes and structures – as the very foundation of his art. He believed that by reaching into nature the artist was able to absorb impressions of the world, which could then be channelled into a subjective vision that expressed the inherent truths of the universe. Comparing the source of an artist’s creative impulse to the growth of a tree, Klee explained: ‘From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye. Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree. Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he moulds his vision into his work’ (quoted in E-G. Güse, ed., Paul Klee: Dialogue with Nature, Munich, 1991, p. 26). However, as with the tree, the resulting image could not be an exact reflection of its source material. Rather, the crown of the tree must diverge from the pattern of its roots and develop its own identity, allowing a space for the artist’s creativity to blossom in a new, subjective manner.
While Klee’s passion for plants had been fostered during his youth by his parent’s colourful and extensive garden, his move to Munich in 1906 had forced him to channel his horticultural interests into an ever-growing personal collection of indoor plants and succulents, which he cared for diligently. Alongside these living specimens, Klee kept a diverse array of naturalia to hand, building a collection that included various flora, different kinds of stones, shells, butterflies and sea urchins, which he had gathered on his wanderings through the landscape. Acting as a reservoir of forms, which the artist could return to again and again in search of inspiration, the collection held a particularly large range of dried plant specimens and pressed flowers, from grasses to algae, mosses to leaves, many petalled flowers to lichen, each carefully labelled with their correct Latin name or arranged by geography. Together, these various organic objects fuelled his interest in the processes of growth, change, metamorphosis, and regeneration that underpinned every aspect of the natural world.
Painted in 1926, Kleines Blumenstilleben emerged during Klee’s tenure at the Dessau Bauhaus, when themes of nature, creation and evolution occupied him intensely. Initially joining the faculty as Master of Form in the book-binding workshop, Klee immersed himself in life at the school, and was swiftly appointed to further roles in the glass-painting studio and the school’s revolutionary foundation course. He spent his time at the Bauhaus diligently developing his teaching methods, consolidating his own personal experiences as an artist and clarifying the techniques he had previously adopted instinctively, in order to define and communicate the methodological and theoretical foundations of his art to his students. The increasing rationalisation of design at the school following its move to Dessau appears to have directly influenced the tenor of Klee’s writing and teaching, as he began to link his analysis of the dynamic organic growth processes in leaves, blossoms and fruit with the development of geometric, elementary forms, a theme he would explore at length in his seminars on Planimetrische Gestaltung (planimetric construction).
In Kleines Blumenstilleben and other botanically inspired still lifes of this period, Klee conjures a whole world of new, imaginary plant forms using a myriad of geometric patterns, building their enchanting, fantastic shapes from carefully delineated spirals and irradiating lines. In the upper two blooms, the centre of the flower takes the form of a propeller-like construction, as three linear elements interlock in a simple triangular pattern that suggests future growth and movement, with the artist leaving room for these elements to slowly unfurl and reveal the core of the plant. Below, another flower is formed purely from a group of spiralling lines, while in another, Klee introduces the form of an eye to the centre of the plant, lending the flower a mysterious, bizarre quality. Indeed, for all the artist’s analytical reflections on the processes of nature, his botanical paintings often set his fantastical blooms as ‘actors’ amongst the landscape, each plant containing a unique sense of character and identity. In Kleines Blumenstilleben, Klee further heightens the otherworldly atmosphere of the scene by setting the plants in an indeterminate space, their forms appearing to float, untethered, amongst the delicately variegated turquoise void. It was this aspect of the artist’s approach to nature – the organic, yet strange, otherworldly qualities of his visions of plants – that would appeal so strongly to the Surrealists who discovered his art during the course of the 1920s, with Louis Aragon going so far as to compare Klee to a mysterious plant, a ‘witch’s tooth’, which had taken root in Weimar and was now beginning to bloom.

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