PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE CANADIAN COLLECTION
PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)

Wer tötet wen

PAUL KLEE (1879-1940)
Wer tötet wen
signed 'Klee' (lower right); dated, numbered and inscribed '1931. L.7. wer tötet wen' (on the artist's mount) and 'S Cl' (on the artist's mount)
tempera and watercolour with Spritztechnik on paper laid down on the artist's mount
sheet: 11 1/4 x 18 1/2 in. (28.6 x 47 cm.)
artist's mount: 18 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. (47.5 x 62.2 cm.)
Executed in 1931
Lily Klee [the artist's wife], Bern (no. 1051), by descent from the artist in 1940.
Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (no. ZTRZ), by whom acquired from the above in 1946.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (no. 5149), on consignment from the above, by 1948.
Charlotte Picher Purcell, Chicago, by whom acquired from the above in 1950.
Main Street Gallery, Chicago, by 1973.
Saidenberg Gallery, New York, by whom acquired from the above in 1973.
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York, by whom acquired from the above in 1973.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1985.
W. Grohmann, 'Paul Klee und die Tradition', in Bauhaus. Zeitschrift für Gestaltung, no. 3, December 1931, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
C. Rümelin, 'Klees Umgang mit seinem eigenen Oeuvre', in Paul Klee: Selected by Genius, 1917-1933, exh. cat., Stadthalle, Balingen, 2001, p. 218, footnote 57.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 6, 1931-1933, Bonn, 2002, no. 5452, p. 56 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Paul Klee - Sonderklasse, unverkäuflich, Bern, 2014, no. 252, p. 558 (illustrated pp. 121 & 433).
Basel, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, October - November 1935, no. 115, p. 9.
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Paul Klee, Fritz Huf, April - June 1936, no. 91, p. 6.
Lucerne, Galerie Rosengart, Paul Klee, June - September 1948, no. 22; this exhibition later travelled to Antwerp, Galerij Artes, March 1949; and Liège, Association pour le progrès intellectuel et artistique de la Wallonie, April 1949.
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Paul Klee: Works from Chicago Collections, January - February 1962, no. 41, n.p. (with inverted dimensions).
Des Moines, Des Moines Art Center, Paul Klee: Paintings and Watercolors from The Bauhaus Years, 1921-1931, September - October 1973, no. 58, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; with incorrect medium).
New York, Serge Sabarsky Gallery, Paul Klee: The Late Years, 1930-1940, Autumn 1977, no. 9, pp. 25 & 42 (illustrated pl. 9; with incorrect medium).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Imogen Kerr
Imogen Kerr Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Executed in 1931, Wer tötet wen dates from the height of Paul Klee’s career. Enjoying his well-earned standing as a leading international artist and major proponent of the Bauhaus – where he taught from 1920, in Weimar, and later Dessau – Klee succeeded in positioning himself as a pivotal figure of the modern art scene. In celebration of his fiftieth birthday in 1929 for example, visionary gallerist Alfred Flechtheim hosted a retrospective of his work which later famously travelled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was also at this time in Paris that Cahiers d’Art approached him for a major volume featuring reproductions of his work. Indeed, as Klee’s name and genius spread, so did his unique vocabulary and visual approach.

Delighting in the poetic, expressive power of colour and form – which he mined with unparalleled force – his works from the 1930s range from the mathematical and virtually abstract to the figural and humorous. As Will Grohmann has aptly noted of this period, ‘Far removed from earthly reality as these works are, Klee occasionally relates them to man by the addition of associative elements… Entire human figures may emerge from the schematic pattern… Any discrepancy between the structural system and the associative elements only serves to make the relationship of the two more expressive… The precise, unadorned geometry of the shapes appears to contradict their human significance to such a degree that the effect of the whole is comic – a comedy based on form’ (Paul Klee, New York, 1954, p. 282).

Indeed, such was the success of Wer tötet wen, that Klee designated it as a ‘Sonderklasse’ – thus categorising it among his greatest works. Ever the meticulous intellectual, Klee developed a precise system for pricing his works, with eight price categories, crowned by the celebrated ‘Sonderklasse’: the assignation reserved only for the very best of his oeuvre, marked with the distinctive ‘S Cl’. Allocating this designation to the present lot, Klee affirms its place among those works intended to remain reserved to his personal collection – representing the highest quality and originality of his entire artistic output.

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