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

Bunte Landschaft

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Bunte Landschaft
signed and dated 'Klee 1928 E.2' (upper right); signed, titled and dated 'Klee bunte Landschaft 1928 E.2' (on the stretcher); inscribed 'Notiz! Tempera unter Glas zu halten!!' (on the stretcher)
tempera on incised plaster on artist's board
8 3/8 x 14 1/8in. (21.3 x 36cm.)
Painted in 1928
Alfred Flechtheim, Dusseldorf (1928)
Alex Vmel, Dusseldorf
Herman Lange, Krefeld
Moderne Galerie Otto Stangl, Munich
Acquired from the above by the present owner
W. Spies, S. & G. Metken, Max Ernst, werke 1925-1929, Cologne 1976, no. 1343 (illustrated p. 283).
Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, Paul Klee, R. Sintenis, December 1928, no. 38.
Paris, Galerie Georges Bernheim et Cie, Paul Klee, January-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, no. 29.
Dusseldorf, Kunstverein fr die Rheinlande und Westfalen in Verbindung and Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, June-July 1931, no. 57.

Lot Essay

"Art is a likeness of the Creation. It is sometimes an example, just as the terrestial is an example of the cosmic." (Paul Klee quoted in W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London 1954, p. 181)

Bunte Landschaft (Colourful Landscape) is an exquisite panorama that depicts a small rural village and its surrounding landscape from the unique perspective of Klee's fertile and cosmic imagination. Executed in cheerful tempera colours on a plaster background that has been inscribed with a rhythmic wealth of detail, this remarkable work stresses the vast diversity of all natural and man-made forms in a way that reflects the universal harmony of creation and the underlying uniformity in all manifestations of life.

Bunte Landschaft was executed in 1928 while Klee was teaching at the Dessau Bauhaus. The artist has employed a mystical script-like style of drawing that reads like a series of hieroglyphs from the natural world and has the appearance of a secret and seemingly unknowable language. Formed by ciphers, symbols, patterns and motifs, this script reiterates Klee's belief that "symbols reassure the spirit that it need not depend exclusively on terrestial experience," and that through them, "Art plays an unwitting game with the ultimate things and achieves them nevertheless." (ibid, p. 181)

This script-like drawing makes its first appearance in Klee's art after his 1914 visit to Tunisia. As a result, it is often characterised by arabesque elements that relate closely to the Tunisian latticework Klee observed in Kairouan and Tunis. Existing somewhere between musical notation and hieroglyphic ciphers, it developed a rhythmic poetry of its own, and was best explored in pictures such as Florentinisches Villen Viertel, 1926 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and Junge Pflanzung, 1929 (The Phillips Collection, Washington).

Bunte Landschaft relates closely to the abovementioned paintings.
Klee's script, incised with the greatest delicacy directly into the plaster, uses forms that are evidently referential to nature, as well as more familiar abstract patterns. Of particular interest in this work is the area in the red and yellow squares towards the right of the central clock tower where Klee has devised an abstract pattern that clearly anticipates the more hieroglyphic script-drawing that characterises his finest late works of 1937 and 1938.

The visual poetry of the drawing in the present work is complimented and enhanced by the flat perspectiveless depiction of the landscape. Making each detail appear as relevant as any other, the absence of perspective in this work not only lends the composition a sense of totality but also conveys the idea that the scene is viewed from a distant, aerial or perhaps even a conceptual vantage point. At the same time, the dynamic alternating pattern of the colours and the lines conveys the energy of the surface, uniting the whole scene in a seemingly cosmic patterning of diverse life. In this way, Bunte Landschaft is an excellent example of Klee's aim to produce pictures that "differ completely from the optical image of an object and yet, from the standpoint of totality, do not contradict it."

A complete microcosmic world that magically conjurs a sense of the macrocosm, a child-like fantasy landscape, Bunte Landschaft is precisely the type of work that made Klee a key inspiration to Andr Breton and the Surrealists. Although Klee never became a formal member of the movement, he was one of the few artists mentioned in Breton's first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, and would participate in the first Surrealist exhibition in 1925.

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