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

Asiatische Gaukler

Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Asiatische Gaukler
signed 'Klee' (lower left); dated '1919 150' (on the artist's mount)
watercolour and crayon on gesso-prepared paper laid down on the artist's mount
sheet: 4¼ x 7 5/8 in. (11 x 19.5 cm.)
mount: 9 x 12 3/8 in. (23.1 x 31.5 cm.)
Executed in 1919
Galerie Neue Kunst [Hans Goltz], Munich, until July 1920.
Carl Gemzell, Stockholm.
A gift from the above to the present owner in 2001.
'Paul Klee', in Der Ararat, May - June 1920, p. 12 (illustrated).
L. Zahn, Paul Klee. Leben, Werk, Geist, Potsdam, 1920, p. 12 (illustrated).
The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, 1919-1922, Bern, 2000, no. 2213 (illustrated p. 109).
Munich, Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Paul Klee, May - June 1920, no. 223 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Carl Gemzells samling, 1996, (illustrated p. 25).
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Lot Essay

'When Klee draws acrobats, he remakes children of the earth into constellations. It is nearly always two figures who work in the [circus] dome, for up there, on the trapeze, the human being will see his yearning for balance...fulfilled...When the human being wants to fly, it is essentially alone, although he is moving toward a goal...yet it is as a pair that we are best able to perform toward meaningful connection with the stars, as fixed points in the universe...One has, as it were, to project [Klee's colours]... by means of a stylistic juggling act' (Theodor Daübler, 'Paul Klee' 1918, p. 26, cited in O.K. Werkmeister, The Making of Paul Klee's Career 1914-20, Chicago, 1989, p.129).

Painted during the height of the revolutionary period in Germany at the end of the First World War, Asiatische Gaukler (Asiatic Jugglers) is a colourful and spectacular urban fantasy typical of the unique world that Klee constructed for himself during this tumultuous time. For Klee, as his champion, the art critic and Expressionist poet Theodor Dabler proclaimed, jugglers and acrobats were semi-miraculous beings that symbolized the mystic link between man and the cosmos - the mystic union of the heavens above and the earth below.

Asiatische Gaukler is a work that reiterates this link through the inverted left and right hand parts of the picture. The figures on the right stand opposite an upside-down tight-rope walker in the left-hand part. This deliberate inverting of important motifs within the same picture was a common practice of Klee's at this time and often involved the tearing off and replacing of part of the composition - as in the 1918 watercolour Auserwahlter Knabe (Chosen Boy; Klee (ed.) no. 1962) for example, in which the act of juggling again takes on a mystical and cosmic sense of meaning.

One of a group of watercolours that Klee chose to represent him in his important one-man exhibition at Hans Goltz's gallery in Munich in June 1920, Asiatische Gaukler also appeared in the special issue of the magazine Der Ararat devoted solely to Klee that accompanied this exhibition and where, on account of its upside-down imagery, it was unfortunately illustrated the wrong way up.

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