PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Bunte Landschaft

PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Bunte Landschaft
signed, dated and inscribed 'Klee 1928 E 2' (upper right); signed and dated again, titled and inscribed '1928. E 2. bunte Landschaft Klee Notiz! Tempera! unter Glas zu halten!!' (on the stretcher)
oil and tempera on incised plaster on board mounted by the artist to the stretcher
8 3/8 x 14 1/4 in. (21.4 x 36 cm.)
Executed in 1928
Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and Dusseldorf (on consignment from the artist, 1928).
Alex Vömel, Dusseldorf (on consignment from the artist, until sold November 1934).
(possibly) Hermann Lange, Krefeld.
Moderne Galerie Otto Stangl, Munich.
Private collection, Germany (acquired from the above, 1982); sale, Christie’s, London, 8 December 1999, lot 64.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
C. Rümelin, "Klees Umgang mit seinem eigenen Oeuvre" in Balingen, 2001, p. 219, no. 78.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, 1927-1930, Bern, 2001, vol. 5, p. 243, no. 4684 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, p. 207).
Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, Paul Klee, R. Sintenis, December 1928, no. 38.
Paris, Galerie Georges Bernheim et Cie, Paul Klee, February 1929, no. 37.
Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, October-November 1929, no. 103.
Dusseldorf, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee: Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Graphik aus 25 Jahren, February-March 1930, p. 7, no. 29 (dated 1914).
Dusseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen and Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, June-July 1931, p. 10, no. 57.
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Lot Essay

Weaving together a series of simplified architectural and organic forms into a colorful, cohesive and playful tapestry that stimulates and teases the eye, Bunte Landschaft captures the spirit of invention and experimentation that persisted throughout Paul Klee’s career. Painted in 1928, this richly worked composition emerged during a period of intense activity for the artist—at this time, he was a key member of the faculty at the famed Bauhaus in Dessau, where he had garnered a reputation as a fascinating, highly contemplative teacher, who possessed “profound truth and astounding knowledge” (quoted in M. Baumgartner, A. Hoberg and C. Hopfengart, eds., Klee and Kandinsky: Neighbors, Friends, Rivals, exh. cat., Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2015, p. 318). Enriched by this stimulating environment and his teaching activities, Klee was able to reflect on his own creative process at length, examining the roots of his artistic vision and analyzing the path of its expression in his work, a process that allowed him to push the boundaries of his art in new directions.
In the present composition, Klee uses a mixture of plaster and tempera paint to achieve a shimmering, multi-hued, highly textured surface, into which the artist carved the outlines of a small rural village and its surrounding landscape. Klee enthusiastically investigated the expressive potentials of various materials through these years, probing the processes required for different media, recording every step of his explorations on the reverse of the canvas or jotting his notes down on sheets of loose paper as he went along. According to contemporary reports, he preferred to work completely in private, keeping the door to his studio locked and only admitting colleagues and friends at specific times. Rolf Bürgi described the almost magical air that clung to this hallowed, personal space, following a visit in 1925: “Klee’s studio was like an alchemist’s kitchen. In the middle there were several easels, one chair… Everywhere paint powder, oils, little bottles, little boxes, matchboxes. Whatever he needed for painting he made himself” (quoted in S. Frey and J. Helfenstein, eds., Paul Klee Rediscovered: Works from the Bürgi Collection, London, 2000, p. 186).
In Bunte Landschaft windows and walls, doorways and pathways, clock towers and steeples are distilled down to their basic geometric shapes and then delicately carved into the surface of the plaster in an intricate pattern of forms. Klee had been fascinated by architectural studies since the earliest days of his career, writing in his diary in 1902 “Everywhere I see only architecture, linear rhythms, planar rhythms” (quoted in The Klee Universe, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 231). Here, the buildings are immersed in a field of bright, pastel pigment, their luminous tones imbuing the landscape with an almost joyful atmosphere, while an ambiguous sense of perspective leads the eye into a series of alternate directions. Between the structures, flowing arabesques and rhythmical linear elements suggest trees, bushes and plants, hinting at the carefully manicured gardens, allotments and flower beds that punctuate the landscape. As Christina Thomson has noted, in works such as Bunte Landschaft the artist successfully combined a sense of the man-made with the organic world: “Klee causes real architectural forms to collide with invented or symbolic elements, mixing the familiar with the visionary and space with dream. The result is fantastical cities, castles in the air, and dream worlds that fuse into a singularly dynamic architectural cosmos: nothing is rigid and purely geometric; everything pulsates, swells, flows, hovers, or glows… Klee blurs the boundary between the built and the grown, the constructive and the organic” (quoted in ibid., pp. 231-232).
Bunte Landschaft was initially on consignment from the artist to the renowned German art dealer Alfred Flechtheim. Flechtheim played a central role in cultivating Klee’s reputation outside of Germany through the late 1920s and early 1930s, most notably in France. He actively sought to build networks of artistic and cultural exchange between the two countries during these years, exhibiting the latest examples of the French avant-garde in his galleries in Dusseldorf and Berlin, and showcasing contemporary German artists in the shows he organized in Paris. Bunte Landschaft was clearly part of Flechtheim’s strategy for promoting Klee in this context, with the work traveling to Brussels for an exhibition in December 1928, before moving to Paris, where it was included in a solo-show dedicated to Klee at the Galerie Georges Bernheim et Cie in February 1929.

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