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Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Voralpiner Ort
signed 'Klee' (lower right); titled, dated and numbered 'voralpiner Ort 1925 "H. vier"' (on the mount)
watercolor on paper laid down by the artist on board
Image size: 14½ x 10 in. (36.9 x 25.4 cm.)
Mount size: 20 5/8 x 15¼ in. (52.5 x 39.6 cm.)
Painted in 1925
Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf and Berlin (from 1928).
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York.
Blanchette H. Rockefeller, New York.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (1981-1989).
Werner and Gabrielle Merzbacher, Küsnacht (1989).
Galerie Thomas, Munich (from 1989).
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue raisonné, Berne, 2000, vol. 4, p. 368, no. 3855 (illustrated).
Kunsthaus Zürich, Ausstellung [Paul Klee, Paul Altherr, R. Th. Bosshard, Emil Bressler, Willy F. Burger, Max Burgmeier, Eugen Maurer, August Speck], April-May 1926, no. 94.
Wiesbaden, Neues Museum, August-Ausstellung 1926, August 1926, no. 124.
Munich, Glaspalast, Neue Münchner Secession, September 1927, no. 141.
Ulm, Museum Ulm, Paul Klee, December 1962-January 1963, no. 38.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Paul Klee 1879-1940, October 1970-January 1971, no. 74.
Munich, Galerie Thomas, 25 Jahre danche, February-April 1990, no. 7 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

In analyzing the great diversity of works that Klee produced in the 1920s while teaching at the Weimar and Dessau Bauhaus schools, Will Grohmann classified Klee's works in three categories, each representing a different realm in the artist's experience of the world (see Paul Klee, London, 1954, p. 192ff). He ascribed to the "inner circle" those works that are symbolic and universal in their intent, whose imagery is deeply imaginary and often appears remote from nature. The "middle circle" comprises those works in which Klee arrives at his subject through the manipulation of form and pictorial elements. The "outer circle" refers to those works that represent the artist responding most directly to impressions from the world around him. Grohmann pointed out that some works possess characteristics of one or more of these "circles," and that this was not a means of qualitatively ranking Klee's work, for the artist produced masterworks in each category.

The many landscapes which Klee painted in the 1920s fall into the "outer circle," as they display the artist describing the physical world around him, and transforming these scenes with his peculiar insight. Klee frequently traveled in Europe, and often filled sketchbooks with quickly executed drawings during his trips. Some of these were later transformed into watercolors and paintings. The present work represents a village in the foothills of the Alps; Klee subsequently painted five other watercolors of similar subjects (Klee Foundation, nos. 3857, 3861, 3864, 3875 and 3921). In each of these works the artist uses a Cubist-derived structure to render the spatial complexity of the landscape; the present work recalls Picasso's views of Horta de Ebro painted during the summer of 1909, and Braque's depictions of the castle at La Roche-Guyon done around the same time. Klee's palette, with its muted blue, green and violet tones, recalls the colors that Cézanne liked to employ in his watercolors. In these respects the present work stands as an homage to the progenitor and creators of Cubism.

During the mid-1920s Klee introduced a hatched technique, executed with a fine brush in the present work, which denotes "states of becoming and passing away (Grohmann, op. cit., p. 257). The 'fuzziness' of this method may appear at odds with weightiness of the underlying cubist structure, but it is clear that Klee intends to interpret two aspects of experiencing the landscape. He renders with firm contours the physical substance of the buildings and the hillside on which they are perched. By means of the hatched colors he hints at the fleeting effects of light. Ultimately, form and color, reality and appearance, and the permanent and the transient are merged in a vibrating haze of lines. This watercolor is in effect a meditation on these phenomena, as well as Klee's tribute to his forebears.


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