PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Schicksalstunde um dreiviertel zwölf

PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Schicksalstunde um dreiviertel zwölf
signed, dated and numbered 'Klee 1922 184.' (upper left)
oil on chalk-primed muslin mounted on panel
16 1/8 x 19 in. (41 x 48.2 cm.)
Executed in 1922
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris.
Karl Nierendorf, New York (acquired from the above, by 1938).
Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, Washington, D.C. (acquired from the above, circa 1939).
Reichenbach collection.
Berggruen et Cie, Paris (acquired from the above, 1955).
Private collection, Europe (acquired from the above, 1956, then by descent); sale, Christie’s, New York, 1 November 2011, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
H. Read, "Klee: Imagination and Phantasy" in XXe siècle, 1938, no. 4, p. 34 (illustrated).
K. Nierendorf, ed., Paul Klee, Paintings, Watercolors 1913 to 1939, New York, 1941, p. 7 (illustrated, pl. 12).
W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1954, pp. 84, 192, 198 and 392, no. 66 (illustrated, p. 392).
R. Verdi, "Paul Klee's 'Fish Magic': An Interpretation" in The Burlington Magazine, March 1974, pp. 151 and 154, note 20.
M. Rosenthal, "Paul Klee's 'Tightropewalker': An Exercise in Balance" in Arts Magazine, September 1978, p. 111, no. 10.
M.L. Rosenthal, Paul Klee and the Arrow, Ph.D. diss., The University of Iowa, 1979, p. 140.
S.L. Henry, "Paul Klee's Pictorial Mechanics from Physics to the Picture Plane" in Pantheon, 1989, p. 154 (illustrated, fig. 22).
Vergleiche: Wintertag kurz vor Mittag, 1992, no. 2839.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, 1919-1922, Bonn, 1999, vol. 3, p. 448, no. 3009 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, p. 408).
J. Helfenstein and E.H. Turner, ed., Klee and America, exh. cat., The Menil Collection, Houston, 2006, p. 229 (illustrated, fig. 54).
E. Smithgall, "A Little House of Klee at the Phillips: Paul Klee's Legacy on Washington Color-Field Artists" in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee, exh. cat., Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, 2017, p. 17.
Stuttgart, Kunstgebäude am Schlossplatz, Neuer deutscher Kunst, May-August 1924, p. 14, no. 91.
Dresden, Graphisches Kabinett Hugo Erfurth and Kunstverein Erfurt, 7 Bauhausmeister, February-April 1925.
Kunsthalle Bern, Paul Klee, February-March 1935, p. 3, no. 13.
Kunsthalle Basel, Paul Klee, October-November 1935, p. 3, no. 10.
Kunstmuseum Lucerne, Paul Klee, Fritz Huf, April-June 1936, no. 10.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1938 (on loan).
Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Collection d'expression française, July-October 1962, p. 18, no. 112 (with incorrect support).
Strasbourg, Château des Rohan, La grande aventure de l'art du XXème siècle, June-September 1963, p. 43, no. 99 (with incorrect support).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Painted in 1922, Schicksalstunde um dreiviertel zwölf emerged at a crucial point in Paul Klee’s career. Less than a year prior to its creation, the artist had been invited by Walter Gropius to join the faculty at his progressive artistic school, the Bauhaus, in Weimar, offering the artist the position of Master of Form in the book-binding workshop. Klee quickly immersed himself in life at the school, and was swiftly appointed to further roles in the glass-painting studio and on the school’s revolutionary foundation course. The artist spent the opening years of his tenure at the Bauhaus diligently developing his teaching methods, consolidating his own personal experiences as an artist and clarifying the techniques he had previously adopted instinctively, in order to define and communicate the methodological and theoretical foundations of his art to his students.
Schicksalstunde um dreiviertel zwölf is one of a series of mysterious, whimsical compositions that Klee produced during the early years in Weimar, conjuring delicate line drawings of townscapes, plant forms, and mountainous landscapes against richly modulated color fields. While these playful poetic fantasies often drew inspiration from the world of theater, ballet, opera, music and fairy tales, Klee’s narratives remained distinctly elusive, their dramatic play of action existing within a dream-like atmosphere. In the present work, the title focuses our attention on the countdown of the clock on the right, which reads 11:45, its pendulum marking the minutes until midnight. The conical shape with two balls in the upper zone of the painting repeats the swinging motion of the pendulum, while the moon to its right echoes the shape of the glowing clock face, suggesting a parallel between cosmic and earthly time. At the bottom left of the scene, a girl rushes away, past a house that seems to be on the brink of toppling over, while above the characters “3/4 !” appear in bold lettering in the sky, the exclamation mark imbuing the scene with a sense of shock and urgency. Indeed, each element within the composition appears to emphasize the march of time, reminding the young woman of the portentous hour, hurrying her along on her journey.
In the large mountain in the center of the composition, the vegetation and trees that line the slopes are grouped together in distinctive bands, their forms recalling the bars of a musical score. Music was an integral part of Klee's life from his earliest childhood—his father was a music teacher, his mother a trained singer, and he himself an accomplished violinist. Many of his lectures at the Bauhaus centered on the parallels between music and color theory, and he persistently sought to translate the temporal qualities of music into visual form through his paintings. Here, the allusions to music lend an additional theatrical dimension to the composition, conjuring a sense of the soundscape that forms a backdrop to the action—one can almost imagine the toll of the bell in the clock tower as it rings through the landscape, a warning that time is running out.
Schicksalstunde um dreiviertel zwölf featured in several important exhibitions of Klee’s work through the 1920s, before being acquired by Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, then the sole agent for Klee’s work in Europe. In 1938, Kahnweiler granted the dealer Karl Nierendorf, who had recently emigrated to New York from Berlin, exclusive rights to represent the artist in America. Writing in April of that year to the collector Duncan Phillips, Nierendorf explained the deal he had struck with the artist: “I made a contract with Klee such as no art dealer in the world would do. Regardless of what sale I might make, I guaranteed Klee an amount each year upon which he could live well and work without care for his material welfare” (quoted in C. Lanchner, “Klee in America,” in Paul Klee, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, p. 101). The present canvas passed from Kahnweiler to Neirendorf around this time, and shortly thereafter was acquired by Phillips, who had begun collecting the artist’s work early in the decade, and had redoubled his efforts as the 1930s drew to a close. The painting was also featured in a lavishly illustrated monograph on Klee that Nierendorf published in English in 1941, which marked an important step in establishing Klee’s reputation in America.

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