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


PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
signed 'Klee' (lower left)
watercolor on paper
19 3⁄8 x 12 5⁄8 in. (49.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted in 1934
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris.
Curt Valentin (Buchholz Gallery), Berlin and New York (by 1938).
Galka E. Scheyer, New York.
Karl Nierendorf, New York (by 1942).
Estella Katzenellenbogen, Santa Monica.
Ludmilla and Hans Arnhold, New York (then by descent).
Private Foundation, Europe (gift from the above).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue raisonné, 1934-1938, Bern, 2000, vol. 7, p. 40, no. 6544 (illustrated).
Kunsthalle Bern, Paul Klee, February-March 1935, p. 13, no. 230.
Kunstverein Winterthur, Das Graphische Kabinett, Kleine Sonderausstellung von Prof. Paul Klee, Bern, May-June 1935, no. 155.
New York, Curt Valentin (Buchholz Gallery), Paul Klee, March-April 1938, no. 57.
The Detroit Institute of Arts, International Watercolor Exhibition, October 1938, no. 95.
Cambridge, Germanic Museum, Harvard University, Paul Klee, February-March 1940.
The Arts Students League of New York, Paul Klee, 1941, no. 12.
Cincinnati Art Museum, Paintings by Paul Klee and Mobiles and Stabiles by Alexander Calder, April-June 1942.
Los Angeles, The Modern Institute of Art, Klee: 30 Years of Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings and Lithographs and in a Klee-like-mood: 2000 Years of Coptic, Persian, Chinese, European and Peruvian Textiles, March-June 1948, no. 70.
New York, Kleemann Galleries, Paul Klee, March 1955, no. 16 (illustrated).

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Lot Essay

In March 1933, Nazi officers searched Paul Klee’s house in Dessau. He was subsequently classified as a ‘degenerate artist’ in April and suspended from his teaching post at the Düsseldorf academy. By December, Klee had emigrated to Switzerland with his wife Lily, and in January 1934 they moved into an apartment in Bern which also served as his studio.
Matthew Gale, noted that “The disintegration of the connections of his past life, which Klee called ‘the great silence between me and Germany,’ was balanced in part by growing interest elsewhere. This included the first showing of his work in London, increasingly the haven for Bauhaus figures including Gropius, Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer, where Douglas Cooper and [Alfred] Flechtheim helped him to organize a solo exhibition at the Mayor Gallery in January 1934” (‘Kunsthalle Bern,’ exh. cat., Paul Klee, Making Visible, Tate Gallery, London, 2013, p. 167).
Executed in early 1934 and first exhibited in a major exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1935, Verschleiertes (“Veiled”) is a radiant and intricately worked abstract painting that Klee has rendered in such a way as to suggest an entire cosmos of growth and natural form. Here, Klee re-engages with the visual potential of his earlier work. As Michael Baumgartner observed, “While the productive re-examination of earlier pictorial and compositional ideas always played an important part in Klee’s work, this reconsideration took on a particular significance after his involuntary return to Switzerland in 1933. At that moment, more than at any other time in his artistic career, it became the mainstay of his creative work…In exile, with no contact to the artistic circles in which he had moved hitherto, and thrown back on the constrained circumstances of his living conditions in Bern, the re-evaluation of earlier works provided him with a source of inspiration and artistic affirmation” (‘Work Process and Retrospection,’ exh. cat., ibid., p. 206).
By the early 1930s, the artist had assembled a diverse collection of botanical materials that he studied as a repertoire of forms. However, Klee was not interested in imitating the outward appearance of the natural world. Instead, he wanted to make an art that springs from an inner, life-giving creative process, which in turn would be preserved in the work. For Klee, these hidden structures and rhythms of nature were very real and powerful chthonic forces that he believed could be rendered, albeit in approximation, by the artist. In a lecture given in 1924 he famously likened the artist, as a creature of nature, to a tree, explaining that if the artist allowed himself to "burrow" deeply into "nature and life" then these forces would "flow through the artist's eyes and mind" and the "force of this flow" would move through him and "transmit" themselves through his work (quoted in H. Jaffe, Paul Klee, London, 1971, pp. 27-28). The resultant work of art, Klee explained, reflects the forces that have flowed through the artist and given birth to its forms, but they are not identical. "Art does not reproduce the visible," he famously remarked, "rather, it makes visible" (quoted in J. Spiller, ed., Paul Klee Notebooks, The Thinking Eye, London, 1961, p. 76).
Anke Daemgen has written, “In his efforts to fathom the secrets of nature, Klee was striving for a new act of creation, an analogy between nature and the artist's creative work, which in his view were subject to the same laws...The fascination with processes of change and metamorphosis, growth and movement that characterized all of Klee's work reached a climax in his artistic exploration of plants, gardens and landscapes.” She goes on to state that in his later work, “The reduction to geometric forms, attributable in part to the influence of Cubism, led Klee to produce entirely abstract works…where only the title indicates the subject matter” (D. Scholz and C. Thomson, ed., The Klee Universe, exh. cat., Staatliche Museen, Berlin, 2008, p. 207).
The present work was previously in the collection of Estella Katzenellenbogen, whose nephew Stephen Kellen married Anna-Maria Arnhold, Ludmilla and Hans Arnhold’s daughter. The work as thus remained in the same family’s collection over generations, and has never been offered at auction before.

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