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

Gebirgsbewegung (3= und 4= takt)

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Gebirgsbewegung (3= und 4= takt)
signed 'Klee' (upper left); titled, dated and numbered 'Gebirgsbewegung (3= und 4= takt) 1928 J.8' (on the mount)
watercolor, pen and black ink on paper laid down by the artist on board
Sheet size: 127/8 x 18¾ in. (32.7 x 47.7 cm.)
Mount size: 161/8 x 21¼ in. (41 x 54 cm.)
Painted in 1928
Galerie Neue Kunst Fides (Rudolf Probst), Dresden (to 1929).
Galerien Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and Düsseldorf (from 1929).
Mayor Gallery, London (to 1934).
Galerie Simon, Paris (1934-1937).
Galerie Alex Vömel, Düsseldorf.
Nierendorf Gallery, New York (1937-1944).
Galka Scheyer, Los Angeles.
J. Bruce Jacobs, Santa Monica.
James Goodman Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 17 December 1977, lot 123.
Paul Kantor, Beverly Hills.
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Inc., New York.
Acquavella Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1988.
Berlin, Galerien Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, October-November 1929, no. 109.
Düsseldorf, Galerien Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Graphik aus 25 Jahren, February-March 1930, no. 125.
Saarbrücken, Staatliches Museum, Paul Klee, Aquarelle aus 25 Jahren, 1905 bis 1930, March-April 1930, no. 60.
Düsseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, and Galerien Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee, June-July 1931, no. 195.
San Francisco, Museum of Art, Paul Klee, October 1939, no. 42.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Fifth Selection of Works by Paul Klee, March-June 1942, no. 8.

Lot Essay

Dr. Josef Helfenstein and Dr. Michael Baumgartner of the Paul Klee Stiftung have confirmed the authenticity of this watercolor.

It is not surprising that Klee, who spent most of his life living in or near the Swiss and Bavarian Alps, should be drawn to the image of the mountain as a primordial symbol of power and creative energy in nature. In Geöffneter Berg ("Opened Mountain"), 1914 (sale, Christie's, New York, 14 November 1996, lot 178), Klee laid open the crystalline structure of a mountain landscape and employed Orphic and Futurist elements to state the formal equivalent of the dynamic forces in nature. In 1932 he painted Ad Parnassum (coll. Paul Klee Stiftung, Bern) in his recently developed "counter-pointillist technique." Parnassus was the mountain sacred to Apollo and the Muses in Greek mythology, and the title is a direct reference to the graduated studies in harmony and counterpoint in a treatise by the baroque Viennese composer Johann Fux. In this picture Klee equates the image of the mountain with the spiritual perfection of his art and total mastery of technique.

Gebirgsbewegung (3= und 4= takt) is another painting in which the symbol of the mountain landscape takes on a musical dimension. 3/4 time is the lilting meter of the waltz, and before it, the rustic dances of German-speaking Central Europe. Klee's mountain view is composed of intersecting and overlapping three- and four- sided polygons. Upright, they denote mountain peaks; inverted they are valleys. The idea of these rugged, massive pictorial forms colliding in a bumptious dance is comical, and the composition is a masterful synthesis of formal elements, extra-pictorial references and the artist's characterstic wit.
While Klee's mountain shapes are basically Cubist in inspiration, the direct reference in the formal aspects of the composition is to Delaunay's Orphism, just as it had been in the rotating disc-like forms in Geöffneter Berg fourteen years earlier. An accomplished muscian, Klee responded powerfully to the musical aspects of Delaunay's abstraction, which he likened to counterpoint or polyphony. Klee's use of transparently colored prism-shaped forms set within a grid-like composition may be traced directly to Delaunay's Fenêtres paintings of 1912. As early as 1914 Klee was already evolving from Orphic practice to his own more tightly organized, flat-color theme format.

"Delaunay used transparent color to create pictorial depth, but there is no real, stable structure to that depth. It is a jumble of fragments and facets, like a box of broken pieces of colored glass. Unlike eighteenth-century polyphonic music it cannot be analyzed as separate component layers. In the music that Klee so revered, each voice or independent theme constitutes a layer of auditory depth, and each such layer can be isolated and examined independently. In Delaunay's "Windows," where the whole space is so thoroughly intermixed, there is no possibility for independent themes to exist. Though transparent color was Delaunay's means of control, he had no means of controlling transparent color depth. In other words, Delaunay's concern for a "dynamic poetry" of color had led him toward dynamic unstable formats: Klee's intensive and rigorous grounding in musical thought was gradually leading him toward very stable, static compositional structures, in which the individual composition would provide the necessary dynamism" (A. Kogan, Paul Klee: Art & Music, Ithaca, New York, 1983, pp. 60-61.)

Most remarkable in Klee's technique is his evolution from several basic ideas concerning color and form that he first explored and absorbed before the First World War, and thereafter weave like a cantus firmus melody thoughout his work, altered, modified and honed to an ever-heightening level of perfection from picture to picture, from decade to decade. In this sense, the mountain is the image that best sums up the artist's searching career, his own Gradus ad Parnassum.

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