PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Luftkampf (Höhenkampf)

PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Luftkampf (Höhenkampf)
signed 'Klee' (upper right); dated and numbered '1917.126.' (on the artist's mount)
watercolour and pen and ink on paper laid down on the artist's mount
image: 7 1⁄4 x 3 1⁄2 in. (18.6 x 9 cm.)
artist's mount: 12 5⁄8 x 9 1⁄2 in. (32.1 x 24.2 cm.)
Executed in 1917
Hans Goltz [Galerie Neue Kunst], Munich, on consignment from the artist in 1921; returned to the artist.
Hermann & Ilse Bode, Hanover, by whom acquired directly from the artist, before 1930, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, London, 29 March 1988, lot 336.
Galerie Gianna Sistu, Paris, by 1988, until at least 1991.
Galleria Tega, Milan.
Acquired from the above, and thence by descent.
P. Daix, Paul Klee: Zeichnungen und Aquarelle von 1915 bis zu seinem Tod, exh. cat., Cannes, 1990 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, 1913-1918, Bern, 2000, no. 1810, p. 422 (illustrated).
S. Dimroth, Die Kunst ist das Einzige, was bleibt, Munich, 2020, pp. 81-82 (illustrated p. 83).
Munich, Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Paul Klee. Der Ararat. Zweites Sonderheft, 60. Ausst., May - June 1920, no. 144, p. 22.
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Paul Klee, May - June 1952, no. 83, n.p. (titled 'Ohne Titel').
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Hannoverschem Privatbesitz, May - June 1954, no. 79, n.p. (titled 'Gespenster').
Hanover, Kunstverein, Die Pelikan-Kunstsammlung, April - June 1963, no. 63, p. 56 (illustrated p. 101; titled 'Gespenster').
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Die Pelikan-Kunstsammlung, January - February 1965, no. 67, p. 41 (illustrated p. 75; titled 'Gespenster').
Cannes, Galerie Daniel Gervis, Paul Klee, Oeuvres sur papier, May - July 1990, n.p. (illustrated; titled 'Gespenster').
Milan, Sei del Carmine, Galleria d'arte moderna, Paul Klee, February - March 1990, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; titled 'Gespenster').
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Paul Klee, October 2000 - January 2001, pp. 65 & 166 (illustrated p. 64).

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Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Works on Paper Sale

Lot Essay

Klee was drafted into the German infantry reserves in 1916. After going through basic training he was about to be sent out to the front as a foot soldier, but was reassigned to a position at an airfield in Schleissheim near Munich. This transfer was the result of an unwritten decree saving talented young Munich artists from being sent to the front. It took the deaths of several of Klee's contemporaries such as Franz Marc and August Macke for this intervention by the Bavarian government to occur. By January of 1917, Klee found himself settled in a desk job at the military flying school in Gersthofen. He would remain in that post until he was demobilised in 1919.

Despite the 'safe' assignments, Klee was nonetheless greatly affected by his new surroundings, as would become evident in the noticeable shift in the style, methodology and materials he employed in the creation of his works during this time. He ceased working with oil on canvas during the war years, instead focusing his efforts on watercolours and drawings executed on paper and scavenged bits of airplane linen. Klee himself wondered what connection could be drawn between his art and the changes the war imposed on his life. In a letter to his wife on 9 September 1917 he asked 'If I'd calmly gone on living, would my art have shot up so fast as in the year 16⁄17?' (quoted in A. Bourneuf, Paul Klee, The Visible and the Legible, Chicago, 2015, p. 13).

Executed in 1917, Luftkampf (Höhenkampf) is a cynical commentary on major contemporary events of the time, with the first part of the title 'Luftkampf' referring to a specific form of aerial battle between fighter aircrafts that started during WWI. In this intriguing and lively pen and ink drawing over watercolour, we see comical characters dramatically jibing at one another, accentuated by sharp arrowed lines, providing an almost satirical response to its title. Klee's expert handling of the watercolour medium is also demonstrated; manipulating the pigments so they heighten the sense of drama and tension, whilst also creating a somewhat contrasted dreamlike scene, as they effortlessly blend from one shade to the next.

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