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

Kleine Experimentier Maschine

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Kleine Experimentier Maschine
signed 'Klee' (upper right); titled, dated and numbered 'Kleine Experimentier Maschine. 1921/11' (on the mount)
watercolor, pen and ink transfer on paper mounted by the artist on paper
Sheet size: 9 x 12 in. (23.5 x 31.2 cm.)
Mount size: 11 x 12 in. (28.5 x 32.4 cm.)
Painted in 1921
Lon Kochnitzky, Paris.
Acquired by Harry Torczyner in 1953.
G. Hugnet, "In the Light of Surrealism," The Bulletin of The Museum of Modern Art, November-December 1936, p. 22.
K. Kuh, Art Has Many Faces: The Nature of Art Presented Visually, New York, 1951, p. 150 (illustrated, p. 151).
K. Kuh, "Art's Voyage of Discovery," Saturday Review, 29 August 1964, p. 150 (illustrated).
C. Geelhaar, Paul Klee and the Bauhaus, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973, p. 66.
M. Vishny, "Paul Klee's Self-Images," Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Art, London, 1985, vol. 1, p. 151.
Berlin, Galerie Der Sturm, Paul Klee, Hans Mattis Teutsch: 99 Ausstellung, July-August 1921, no. 37.
Munich, Glaspalast, Neue Mnchner Secession, 1922, no. 70.
Munich, Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Paul Klee, Zweite Gesamtausstellung 1920-1925, May-June 1925, no. 49.
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Thse, Antithse, Synthse, February-March 1935, no. 59.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, December 1936-January 1937, p. 216, no. 234 (illustrated).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Lawyers Collect, January 1965. New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Early 20th Century European Masters, March-April 1987, no. 28.

Lot Essay

This work is recorded under no. 1921/11 in the artist's Werkkatalog and will be sold with a photo-certificate from the Paul Klee Stiftung who have kindly confirmed its authenticity.

Klee joined the teaching staff of the Weimar Bauhaus in 1920 where the exchange of ideas there encouraged a constructivist tendency in his painting. Klee applied his characteristic inner vision and love of fanciful imaginary subject matter, which he articulated through his drawing. It was especially the latter that fascinated Surrealist writers Aragon, Eluard and Breton, and the painters Mir and Masson, although it was not until 1925 that they would see a full-scale exhibition of Klee's work in Paris.

In all these pictures, it is the drawing that bears
the heaviest burden of meaning and first exacts the
empathy of the viewer. Fully developed paintings, both
for Klee and for the Surrealist 'automatists,' depended on
the invention of a color technique that would host and enhance
an independent graphic poetry. Such a technique did not need
to involve a truly automatic application of color. Rather,
it simply demanded a mobile field compatible with a dynamic
line and pictorialization of the process of time that governed
'automatic' creation. (A. Temkin, "Klee and the Avant-Garde 1912-1940," in Paul Klee, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, pp. 24-25)

The oil transfer technique, which Klee often used during this period, as in the present work, facilitated this process. The artist applied a sheet wet with thinned paint against the sheet on which he was drawing, and by drawing on the reverse he transferred a grainy, broken line to the picture surface. He then applied pigment in order to form a color-ground for the composition.

This process comprised repeated layers of glazing, each
of which had to dry before the next was applied. Ultimately,
the subtle chromatic gradations and their varying opacities
lead the eye to circulate through space in a manner exactly
counter to the directed gaze encouraged by the perspectival
devices of naturalistic pictorial space. The random spots and
smudges born of the initial transfer of the drawing reinforce
the aura of decentralization. As a result, the drawing seems
to emerge from the surrounding space despite the fact that it
actually was applied beforehand. (Ibid., p. 25)

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