Towards the end of World War I, Klee's work quickly matured, and his range of subject matter expanded and deepened philosophically. In 1918, the atmosphere of artistic and political revolution in Munich, Klee's pre-war travels in North Africa, and his assimilation of Delaunay's Orphist influence were all coming to fruition, particularly in his handling of color and the transformation of his drawing and form. It was during this year that Klee created Barbarische Komposition.
The glowing, jewel-like resonance of Barbarische Komposition emerges in the combination of delicately modulated color and imaginative, energetic and meticulous draughtsmanship. It was Klee who famously said that drawing was just "taking a line for a walk" and in this work he demonstrates this principle in the simplest way, contrasting graphic simplicity with a diverse palette. Indeed, in the present painting the artist seems to take line for a dance, for there is something of the pleasure of articulating movement evident in the lyrical expression of the curved interlocking lines. Klee's art is unique in the history of the twentieth century in that he was the only modern artist who allowed his work to roam freely between the organic and the geometric, the constructive and the intuitive, the figurative and the abstract and between the purely linear and the wholly chromatic.
Barbarische Komposition was included in Klee's first major survey exhibition which was held at the Galerie Neue Kunst in Munich in the Spring of 1920. The exhibition was the outcome of a contract Klee had signed with the dealer Hans Goltz in October 1919 and provided the artist with some financial stability. "I paint, he markets and advertises," Klee wrote to his friend Wilhelm Hausenstein in June 1920 (quoted in O.K. Werckmeister, The Making of Paul Klee's Career, 1914-1920, Chicago, 1989, p. 236). The artist provided autobiographical information for the Munich exhibition catalogue, including his declaration, "On this side I am not at all comprehensible. For I reside just as well with the dead as with the unborn. Somewhat closer than usual to the heart of creation. And still by far not close enough" (ibid., p. 233).