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Paul Klee (1879-1940)
signed 'Klee' (lower left)
oil on canvas
10¼ x 12¾ in. (26 x 32.5 cm.)
Painted in 1937
Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris (1938).
Karl Nierendorf, New York (1939).
Elizabeth Rockwell, Pittsburgh (by 1943).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
The Paul Klee Foundation, ed., Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bonn, 2003, vol. 7, p. 248, no. 7034 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paul Klee, Oeuvres récentes, January-February 1938, no. 9 (titled Feuille d'images).
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee, An Exhibition in Honor of the Sixtieth Birthday of the Artist, February 1940, no. 12.
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee, January-February 1941, no. 27.
New York, New Art Circle, Paul Klee Exhibition, October 1943, no. 16.
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Art In Residence, October 1973-January 1974 (titled Metamorphosis).

Lot Essay

Blatt displays the succinct graphic elements and simplified colors that constitute the signature formal vocabulary of Klee's late style. The two boldly painted leaves are composed of the most basic signs that one can devise for foliage. Joan Miró had been a dedicated maker of pictorial signs since the early 1920s; Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso would eventually take similar steps toward sign-making in their late oeuvre. Rudimentary graphic elements structure the shape of the leaves, forming bold arabesques on a bright pink ground. Matthias Bärmann has observed, "His reduced, sign-like repertoire gave Klee, who was aware of how little time remained to him, a spontaneous outlet for his enormous creative urge" (Paul Klee, Fulfillment in the Late Work, Hanover, 2003, p. 15).

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, who took over representation of Klee's work in the early 1930s, acquired the present painting by 1938, eleven years before the publication of his monograph on Klee. The Parisian dealer had it and other late works in mind when he concluded in this text, "Even the style of his last works--wide strokes had taken the place of the earlier scrawly ones--was forced upon him by his illness, which stiffened his arm. But it was just this late production which added a note of grandeur, not hitherto discernable, to Klee's work. Thus the hero triumphs over evil and turns it to his own again" (Paul Klee, New York, 1950, p.14).

In the early 1940s the painting was acquired by Elizabeth Rockwell, an inspired young gallerist based in Pittsburgh, who provided a platform for work by avant-garde artists and performers such as Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, John Cage and Merce Cunningham. She organized a well-received Klee exhibition at the Outlines Gallery from January to February 1943, primarily sourcing works from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York (figs. 1 and 2).

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