Following the National Socialists' rise to power in January 1933, Klee's position at the Dusseldorf Academy became increasingly tenuous, and he was finally dismissed at the end of the year.
'The question of where to settle down for this new phase of my life answered itself', as Klee himself wrote in January 1940. 'I never really lost touch with my home town; now I was strongly attracted to it again. I have been a resident here [in Bern] ever since. My one remaining wish is to become a citizen as well.' (W. Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1954, p. 15). Klee led a relatively quiet life there,
suffering as he was from sclerodermia, a degenerative skin disease. However, he never really stopped working. In fact, his output actually increased dramatically and he was working on larger scale
painting, evolving a means of expression of the utmost boldness and simplicity.
Klee's son Felix recalled, 'all of a sudden, during the last three and a half years of my father's life, between 1937 and 1940, he created an amazingly large number of works in a completely new style. More than 1,200 in the single year of 1939! Lines turned into bars, and his colours became strong and vibrant, unknown elements of his art until then. This late work is the least accessible, but in my opinion it is
his most important' (quoted in S. Rewald, Paul Klee, New York, 1988, p. 52). Because Klee kept a meticulous record of his output, it is known that he executed a total of 398 works in the final four month period of his life.
As Grohmann has written, 'In 1937 Klee had already adopted the technical process that suited his artistic impulse of those years. His desire for directness, which was the outcome of a last detour around the tangible aspects of the natural and spirited world, led him to use very simple shapes. Open bar-like strokes are the main features and the pictorial values are reduced to a supplementary function, or
the colours lead an independent life of their own within a sparse framework. Klee now returns to gouache which he had already used before on occasions. He employs it as a thick impasto or thinned out, and likes to combine it with oil, tempera and watercolour, so that it is not easy to see just how the surfaces obtained in this way were produced' (op. cit., p. 325).
Der Clown und seine Blume, with its heavy black contours evinces this new style, where the composition appears both contained and determined. With bright colours bursting out of circumnavigated shapes, Klee lays rest to years of delicately frenetic draughtsmanship for flatter, bolder forms. Der Clown und seine Blume is a perfect example of Klee's later works, when he moves away from his gentle and playful artifice of subtle and narrative allusions and occasionally recondite symbolism, and relies primarily on powerful gestures and dramatically expressive effects.