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

Stadt eines Kindes mit dem Windmhle

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Klee, P.
Stadt eines Kindes mit dem Windmhle
signed 'Klee' (upper left); dated and numbered '1919 171' (on the mount)
watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper laid down by the artist on board
Sheet size: 8 x 5 in. (21 x 13.4 cm.)
Mount size: 12 x 9 in. (31.7 x 24.1 cm.)
Painted in 1919
Estate of the artist.
Lily Klee, Bern (acquired in 1940).
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (acquired from the above, 1946).
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York (acquired from the above, 1950).
Katherine Urquhart Warren, Newport and New York (acquired from the above, 1951).
By descent from the above to the present owner.

Lot Essay

A photo-certificate from Dr. Josef Helfenstein and Dr. Michael Baumgartner of the Paul Klee-Stiftung dated Berne, 24 September 1999 accompanies this watercolor.

The armistice ending the First World War was signed in November, 1918; the following month Klee was discharged from the German army and returned to Munich, the center of his pre-war activities. The artist became caught up in the radical left-wing movements which swept Germany after the end of the war. A revolutionary council took control of Bavaria and the regional seat of government in Munich; it recognized as an advisory body The Action Committee of Revolutionary Artists headed by Hans Richter. In April 1919 Klee, who had resumed his pre-war position as secretary to the New Munich Succession, was invited to join this group, and he accepted. Within a few weeks, however, the revolutionary regime was ousted by the right-wing Freikorps, and in June, to escape reprisal, Klee fled into temporary exile in Switzerland.

The present work displays the format that characterizes many of Klee's paintings of this period. If his pre-war work focused on the emergence of color as a dominant element in his art (see lot 426, painted in 1915) the work of this period aims at a synthesis of chromatic form and drawing. Familiar from the Orphist elements in his pre-war pictures are the blocks of flat transparent color that serve as a unifying structure for his linear forms. Indeed, for Klee color and drawing were complementary aspects of reality:

"The fact that after 1912-3 Klee's figures were all transformed into stick figures, puppets, or schematic signs is by no means due to a mere aesthetic play with forms. Behind all those beings frozen into marionettes lies Klee's fatalistic conviction that with our human impotence we are unconditionally subject to the laws of a higher, cosmically creative force. Even in his use of pictorial means, Klee was shifting his glance in opposite directions. Color for him tends to represent the 'abstract,' otherworldly side of his vision, whereas drawing is the means of coming to terms with the anecdotal, all-too-human lower levels of this world" (J. Glaesemer, "Klee and German Romanticism," Paul Klee, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, pp. 74-75).

Revolutionary idealism was very much in the air at the time, and not far from this lay Klee's own hopes for a new society in which the destructive excesses of the old regime would be cast aside. A common theme in Klee's drawings of this period is the city, which serves as a symbol of human society as a political organism. In the drawing, Jerusalem, My Highest Bliss, 1914 Klee piles one on top of another a series of arches and ladder-like forms testooned with flags that represent the ascent of the spirit from earth to heaven. A similar hierarchical structure is seen in the present work, and many of Klee's cityscapes reiterate this vertical organization of the city, reaching from earth to sky, with its humorously Utopian aspirations.


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