PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Guter Fischplatz

PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Guter Fischplatz
signed ‘Klee’ (upper right); dated, titled and numbered ‘Guter Fischplatz 1923 III 36.’ (on the artist's mount)
oil, gouache and pen and black ink on paper laid down on card
Sheet size: 9 7/8 x 13 3/4 in. (25 x 34.7 cm.)
Mount size: 11 1/4 x 15 1/8 in. (28.4 x 38.3 cm.)
Executed in 1923
Bernhard Mayer, Zurich.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired from the above, 1944).
Lady Noel E. Norton, London (acquired from the above, 1944 and until 1951).
Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Paris.
M. Hendricks, Brussels (acquired from the above, 1957).
Edward Bachman, New York.
World House Galleries, New York (by 1960); sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 5 December 1962, lot 179.
Jung collection (acquired at the above sale).
Anon. sale, Palais Galliéra, Paris, 24 March 1963, lot 54.
Acquired by the present owner, 2015.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, 1923-1926, Bonn, 2000, vol. 4, p. 48, no. 3129 (illustrated).
New York, World House Galleries, Paul Klee, April 1960, no. 11.
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Paul Klee, April-May 1960, no. 12.
Kunsthaus Zürich, Die Sammlung Bernhard Mayer, June-August 1998, p. 52 (illustrated, p. 53).

Lot Essay

“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.”

- Paul Klee

Painted in 1923 while Klee was teaching at the Bauhaus, Guter Fischplatz (Good Fishing Spot), fits stylistically and thematically in a profoundly imaginative series of works he produced during the course of that period.
Klee was invited to teach in Weimar in November of 1920. He accepted the position and left Munich two months later to join this dynamic community of artists, architects, designers and craftsmen, with its rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum. Weimar had vast advantages for Klee: a steady income, a large studio for his exclusive use and a rewarding forum to discuss and refine his ideas. Although his teaching responsibilities at the Bauhaus occupied only a small number of hours per week, they forced him to formulate a theory—consistent, communicable and intelligible—concerning the use of pictorial elements. It was there that the artist began articulating his artistic practice for the first time.
In the present work, Klee revisits the motif of a watercolor of the same title that he had painted the year prior, this time in his rare oil on paper technique. Here, Klee’s intentionally child-like lines and semi-representational shapes are set against a whimsical color field of burgundy, blue, ochre and off-white tones applied in a curvy-linear fashion, rendering a simultaneously playful and delicate composition. Through his gently curved and thickly applied brushstrokes, Klee achieves a powerful and dynamic color arrangement that retains a harmonious balance. The color gradients gain in luminosity through the off-white pigments, while the darker tones create spatial depth. Looking at the work more closely, one might begin to think Klee’s title, Guter Fischplatz, refers to something other than a Good Fishing Spot. Indeed, the phallic like shape of the supposed fish at the center left of the work, the embryo and gender-symbol like forms that make up the composition, as well as the gender normative pinks and blues seem to hint to a Good Meeting Spot rather than a Good Fishing Spot—a cleaver albeit crude metaphor. Klee’s wittiness, his emulation of children’s art, as well as the double meanings and ambiguities in his works parallel many of the precepts that the surrealists were developing in France at the time.
As Andrew Kagan has noted: "Whimsy, fantasy, and playfulness were not merely personal indulgences for Klee, they also represented an aesthetic ideal. " (Paul Klee at the Guggenheim Museum, exh. cat, Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York, 1993, p. 37). Klee's carefully thought out aesthetic goals reveal themselves in the present work. The curvy-linear strokes of paint that make up the background, which gradually change in tone and color, create a tidal impression similar to the ebb and flow of water and the rhythmic flow of sounds. While the allusion to water hints back to the title’s literal meaning, we know music was also an important source of inspiration for Klee and that he persistently sought to translate its temporal qualities into visual form. Indeed, music was an integral part of the artist’s life from his earliest childhood—his father was a music teacher, his mother a trained singer and he himself an accomplished violinist. In fact, many of Klee’s lectures at the Bauhaus during the time this work was executed were centered around the parallels between music and color theory, in particular the ability of color and linear patterns to create rhythms, as is illustrated by the present work’s whimsical background.
Guter Fischplatz has passed through the collections of various notable patrons, notably the German fur trader Bernhard Mayer, the earliest recorded owner of the painting, as well as Lady Norton, a London socialite.

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