Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Klee, P.
Landgut bei Fryburg
signed 'Klee' (lower right); dated, numbered and titled '1915/236 Landgut bei Fryburg' (on the mount)
watercolor on paper laid down by the artist on board
Sheet size: 7 x 7 in. (18.4 x 19.7 cm.)
Mount size: 9 x 12 in. (24.7 x 32.5 cm.)
Painted in 1915
Lily Klee, Bern (acquired in 1940).
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (acquired from the above, 1946).
Rolf and Catherine Brgi, Bern.
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York.
Acquired from the above by the family of the late owner.
Berne, Kunsthalle, Alice Bailly, Sektion Aargau der Gesellschaft schweizerischer Maler, Bildhar und Architekten, Fritz Oswald, Paul Klee, A. Stockmann, June-July 1921, no. 229.
Sale room notice
A photo-certificate from Dr. Josef Helfenstein and Dr. Michael Baumgartner of the Paul Klee-Stiftung dated Berne, 26 October 1999 accompanies this watercolor, which is recorded in the artist's oeuvre catalogue under the title Quinzet (Fryburg) Garten.

Lot Essay

Klee's development as a painter entered a momentous phase in the years immediately before and just after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and stems from two significant events in the artist's life. The first is a stylistic synthesis that begins to emerge as a consequence of Klee's encounter with the Orphist paintings of Robert Delaunay in 1911, an influence that was already strong by the time Klee met Delaunay in Paris in the following year. Delaunay's ground-breaking series of Fentres, in which form and color are unified in an abstract, prismatic gridlike structure, encouraged Klee to experiment in non-representational painting, and this formal aspect would remain a constant element in Klee's work for the rest of his career.

Certain of Klee's works of this period are overtly derivative of Delaunay's radical pictorial ideas. This was also the case for many other young German artists, who preferred the lyrical and transcendental aspects of Orphist theory, with its emphasis on color, to the more perceptual discipline of Cubist painting, which for all its revolutionary upending of traditional form, remained rooted in "things," and restricted the use of expressive color.

Having assimilated Orphic ideas into his painting, Klee was ready for a truly personal epiphany that would enable him to interpret these developments in an individual and original manner, and signal a creative maturity as well as a new stylistic identity. This occurred during his celebrated trip to Tunisia in April 1914, in the company of fellow painters August Macke and Louis Moilliet. The North African landscape presented exotic and jarring contrasts. Islamic architecture, with its gentle, undulating arabesques contrasted with simple, block-like shapes, provided Klee with a formal structure not unlike that which the simple window device gave to Delaunay's color grids. Most importantly of all, Klee arrived at a profound understanding of color, not in theory, but in a real, living sense. Amid the bleached landscape, natural forms stood out in high relief, and color was sun-drenched and pure. In his diary entry for April 16, written after an evening stroll in Kairouan, near Tunis, Klee wrote: "I now abandon work. It penetrates so deeply and so gently into me. I feel it and it gives me confidence in myself without effort. Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will always possess me. I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter" (F. Klee, ed., The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898-1918, Berkeley, 1964, p. 297).

Except for the distinctively European architecture, and a title which confirms the location, the present work shares many of the formal characteristics of the Tunisian landscapes done the year before, and possesses the same rich, luminous sense of color. The natural and architectural forms are flat and block-like, and are rendered as planes of pure color.

Klee was in a relevantly fortunate position at the beginning of the war ; because of his Swiss nationality and age (he was 35 years old), he managed to avoid conscription into the army until 1916. When he was finally called up, only a few days after Franz Marc was killed at Verdun (Macke had been killed early in the fighting), he served in rear echelon support groups. The present work carries no hint of the horrible slaughter that claimed two of his best friends and countless others of all nationalities, and Klee managed to extend his artistic idyll for a while longer. Amid the revolutionary upheaval in Germany after the war ended, Klee's career took a new turn, in which a private voice became more public and political (see lot 433), and as a teacher he became an important influence on a younger generation of artists.

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