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Paul Klee (1879-1940)

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Paul Klee (1879-1940)

Herr der Stadt

Paul Klee (1879-1940) Herr der Stadt signed 'Klee' (lower left) oil on paper 17½ x 12 1/8 in. (44.6 x 30.9 cm.) Executed in 1937
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris, until 1938.
Karl Nierendorf, Cologne, Berlin and New York, from 1938 until 1941.
Acquavella Galleries, New York.
The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 7, 1934-1938, New York, 2003, no. 6965 (illustrated p. 225).
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee. Presented by the Art Students' League of New York, January - February 1941, no. 6.
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 17.5% on the buyer's premium.

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Giovanna Bertazzoni
Giovanna Bertazzoni

Lot Essay

Painted in 1937 Herr der Stadt (Master of the Town) is strong and forceful. It belongs to a radically increasing number of works that Klee made in an extraordinary burst of creativity during the last three years of his life. After being dismissed by the Nazis from his professorial duties at the Düsseldorf Academy and in 1935 suffering the first bout of a progressive and ultimately fatal illness (posthumously diagnosed as scleroderma), Klee was unable to paint throughout most of 1936. In the summer of 1937 at the same time as many of his earlier works went on show in Germany at the infamous Nazi exhibition of so-called 'Degenerate Art' Klee, now living in exile in his native Switzerland, set to work with a combination of grim determination and renewed vigour, producing over 264 works before the year's end. As a result of the trauma he quietly suffered during these years, Klee's work underwent a dramatic change, expanding in size and often coming to betray a gravitas and sometimes stern sense of melancholy clearly reflective of the new and ugly political landscape in Germany and his own difficult personal circumstances.

Herr der Stadt with its medieval-like portrait of a prince wholly integrated into a granite castle-like landscape of rectilinear forms illustrates the bolder and more forceful style that distinguishes Klee's late style. Using fewer marks, a thicker line and a more forceful and determined sense of form, Klee here delineates the familiar magic world of his own unique universe in a new, more powerful and less fanciful manner. Distinguished in many cases by a predominant use of darker and more autumnal colours, the images and tone of these works is often more in tune with the dark Romanticism of Brothers Grimm fairy-tales than with the luscious magic gardens and fantasy landscapes of so many of Klee's earlier paintings. Herr der Stadt is no exception in this respect, strongly portraying the integral relationship between a proud and stern civic leader and his castle-like town in a magical mosaic-like play of rich dark colour.

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