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

Irrende Seele

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Irrende Seele
signed 'Klee' (upper right); titled, dated and numbered '1929 3 H.11. irrende seele' (on the artist's mount)
watercolour and pen and black ink on paper laid down on the artist's mount
image: 12½ x 18 7/8 in. (31.8 x 48 cm.)
mount: 18½ x 24 7/8 in. (47 x 63.2 cm.)
Executed in 1929
Rudolf Probst (Galerie Neue Kunst Fides; Das Kunsthaus), Dresden & Mannheim, 1930-1933.
Lily Klee, 1940-1946.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern, from 1946.
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris.
Berner Collection, until 1965.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1965-1968.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
W. Grohmann, 'Paul Klee und die Tradition', in bauhaus, zeitschrift für Gestaltung, no. 3, December 1931 [p. 5].
H. Bloesch & G. Schmidt, Paul Klee 1870-1940, Reden zu seinem Todestag 29. Juni 1940, Bern, 1940 (illustrated).
C. Giedion-Welcker, Paul Klee, London, 1952, p. 95 (illustrated).
W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, Geneva/Stuttgart, 1954, p. 275 (illustrated).
G. di San Lazzaro, Klee, La vie et l'oeuvre, Paris, 1957 (illustrated).
C. Giedion-Welcker, Paul Klee in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1961, p. 115.
W. Grohmann, Der Maler Paul Klee, Cologne, 1966, p. 110.
M. Huggler, Paul Klee, Der Malerei als Blick in der Kosmos, Frauenfeld/Stuttgart, 1969, p. 113.
J. Glaesemer, Paul Klee, Die farbigen Werke im Kunstmuseum Bern, Gemälde, farbige Blätter, Hinterglasbilder und Plastiken, Bern, 1976, p. 161, no. 50.
M. Rosenthal, 'The Myth of Flight in the Art of Paul Klee', in Arts Magazine, vol. 55, no. 1, 1980, p. 94 (illustrated).
R. Verdi, Klee and Nature, London, 1984, p. 249, no. 30.
G. Schiff, 'Klee's Array of Angels', in Art Forum, vol. 25, no. 9, May 1987, p. 126.
A. Bonfand, Paul Klee, L'oeil en trop, Paris, 1988, p. 57.
P. Comte, Paul Klee, Paris, 1989, p. 155.
S. Cordulack, 'Navigating Klee', in Pantheon, vol. 56, 1998, p. 149.
Paul-Klee-Stiftung (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. 5, 1927-1930, London, 2001, no. 5067 (illustrated p. 395).
Dresden, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, Paul Klee zum 50, Geburtstage, Aquarelle aus den Jahren 1920-1929, February - March 1930, no. 100 (illustrated).
Hannover, Kestner Gesellschaft, Paul Klee, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Graphik, 1903-1930, March - April 1931.
Bern, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, February - March 1935, no. 137.
Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Aus dem Traumbuch der Maler, Phantasie und Vision, Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, August - September 1968, no. 50 (illustrated).
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
Sale room notice
Please note that the last line of provenance should read:
Anonymous sale, Hauswedell, Hamburg, 25-26 June 1968, lot 353.
Acquired at the above sale by Dr Ewald Rathke on behalf of the father of the present owners.

Lot Essay

Irrende Seele (Wandering Soul) is one of a small group of watercolours painted in the autumn of 1929 in which Klee gives full voice to the innate lyricism that underlay his strong mystical vision. Conjuring a sense of a mysterious natural underworld in which strange amoeba-like creatures drift, float and intermingle, Irrende Seele seems to depict a 'microcosmos' in which spirit has taken on a physical form. A counterpart to Klee's contemporaneous experimentation with the depiction of the outward forms of nature (trees, leaves, and flowers for example) as physical manifestations of the powerful procreative and essentially spiritual forces that drive through them, Irrende Seele is a work that gives imaginative physical form to the inner being.

'I am a cosmic point of reference, not species,' Klee once famously declared. 'I cannot be understood in purely earthly terms. For I can live with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat nearer to the heart of all Creation than is usual. But still far from being near enough' (Paul Klee, 1916, cited in W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1951, p. 182.)

Klee's friend and biographer, Will Grohmann wrote of Irrende Seele that it is part of a group of watercolours executed in 1929 in which the artist began to explore space, not as a physical phenomenon but as a 'mysterious' and 'inner' dimension. Citing a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke in relation to this work, Grohmann wrote; 'No matter how far Klee may travel from this earth, he never loses touch with human life and destiny, with spirits, souls, and demons. Perhaps he alludes here to the transience and evanescence of man's life: 'We merely drift past everything like a current of air' Rilke said. The space in these pictures is something like the 'inside space of the universe' of which Rilke spoke; the inner and outer events coincide' (W. Grohmann, op. cit., p. 283).

Moving, mysterious and charming, Irrende Seele is a deceptively powerful work that, like its sleeping, drifting figure, floating in a strange sea of misty and ambiguous fluid forms, articulates a dream-like state of cosmic wonder.


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