Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Alter krieger
signed 'Klee' (upper left); dated, numbered and titled '1929 3.H.31. Alter Krieger' (on the artist's mount)
watercolor and charcoal on paper laid down on card
Sheet size: 18 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. (47.1 x 30.6 cm.)
Mount size: 23 x 16 3/8 in. (58.5 x 41.5 cm.)
Executed in 1929
Rudolf Probst (Galerie Neue Kunst Fides; Das Kunsthaus), Dresden and Mannheim (1930-1932).
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris.
Galka E. Scheyer, Los Angeles (1937).
Karl Nierendorf, New York.
J.B. Neumann (New Art Circle), Berlin and New York (by 1938).
Anon. sale, Hauswedell & Nolte, Hamburg, 9 June 1986, lot 606.
K. Nierendorf, Paul Klee, Paintings, Watercolours, 1913 to 1949, New York, 1941, p. 8, no. 23 (illustrated).
M. Armitage, 5 Essays on Klee, New York, 1950, p. 89.
V.W. Kersten, Paul Klee, Ubermut, Allegorie der künstlerischen Existenz, Frankfurt, 1990, p. 59.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 2001, vol. 5, p. 402, no. 5087 (illustrated).
Dresden, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, Paul Klee zum 50, Geburtstage, Aquarelle aus den Jahren, 1920-1929, February-March 1930, no. 77.
Staatliches Museum Saarbrücken, Paul Klee, Aquarelle aus 25 Jahren, 1905 bis 1930, March-April 1930.
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Paul Klee, Gemälde, Aquarelle, Graphik 1903 bis 1930, March-April 1931.
Los Angeles, Hollywood Gallery of Modern Art and Oakland Art Gallery, Paul Klee, Paintings, July-September 1935.
San Francisco Museum of Art, Exhibition Paul Klee, January-February 1937.
New York, Neumann-Willard Gallery, Paul Klee, Collection of Neumann-Willard Gallery, May-June 1939, no. 16.
New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin) and New York, Willard Gallery, Paul Klee, October-November 1940, no. 64.
Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College; Chicago, The Arts Club; The Portland Art Museum; The San Francisco Museum of Art; Los Angeles, The Stendahl Art Galleries; St. Louis, City Art Museum; Wellesley College and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Paul Klee, Memorial Exhibition, January-July 1941, no. 40.

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Morgan Schoonhoven
Morgan Schoonhoven

Lot Essay

In 1901, at the age of 21, Klee noted in his diary, "…thoughts about the art of portraiture. Some will not recognize the truthfulness of my mirror. Let them remember that I am not here to reflect the surface (this can be done by the photographic plate), but must penetrate inside. My mirror probes down to the heart. I write words on the forehead and around the corners of the mouth. My human faces are truer than the real ones" (The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898-1918, Berkeley, 1964, pp. 47-48). Painted almost thirty years later, Alter Krieger realizes this youthful ambition. Although Klee never became a portrait painter in the traditional sense of representing a real person, he was interested in pictorially realizing a role. In his discussion of Klee's figure paintings of the 1920s, Will Grohmann observes, "when the drama depends on a single figure the structure is more concentrated; that is, where Klee reduces the drama to a single character he simplifies the picture to an enigmatic minimum" (Paul Klee, London, 1969, p. 199).
Here, an old warrior becomes a grotesque, almost spectral apparition. Klee seems to revel in the sinister quality of the portrayed, as with so many of the soldiers the artist drew and painted following his active duty during World War I (fig. 1).
By 1929, when he executed Alter Krieger, Klee had arrived at the peak of his career. He enjoyed international status as a master of contemporary art and was a renowned representative of the Bauhaus, where he had taught since 1920, first at Weimar and then at Dessau. On the occasion of Klee's fiftieth birthday in December 1929, the Berlin gallerist Alfred Flechtheim gave him a large retrospective, which then traveled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Cahiers d'Art in Paris commissioned a massive volume of reproductions of his oeuvre; and he was fêted at the Bauhaus with an enormous package of gifts dropped by parachute from an airplane. Grohmann has written, "Klee was now one of the few artists in a position to decide the future course of art. Every exhibition of his was eagerly anticipated, and critics measured him by international standards" (Paul Klee, New York, 1954, p. 251).
Alter Krieger represents a character type that can be described as melancholy and disturbing but, as always with Klee, there is a sense of whimsy, a genuine delight in the peculiar. Christina Thompson notes, "Klee's observations of the human psyche seldom appear as self-referential character studies in which the individual occupies the attention. Klee instead presents the human being as a creature perpetually in dialogue with his surroundings. As with everything else on earth, the human being can also only exist as a part of the greater whole" (The Klee Universe, exh. cat., Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 131). She continues, "Klee thereby presents us with character portraits, which in their ambiguity always keep an interpretative back door open" (ibid., p. 132).

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