5 February 2009
Paul Klee (1879-1940)
Blaugeflügelte Vögel (recto); Porträt eines Mannes (verso)
signed and dated '1925 B5 Klee' (on the stretcher)
oil on gauze on gessoed board in the artist's frame
17 x 13 3/8 in. (43.1 x 34 cm.)
Painted in 1925
Emil Viktor Mauser, Zurich, by whom acquired directly from the artist, and thence by descent to the present owner.
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The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, 1923-1926, Bern, 2000, no. 3796.
Braunschweig, Schlossmuseum, [Paul Klee], January - February 1926. Zurich, Kunsthaus, Ausstellung, April - May 1926, no. 17.
The Klee Foundation has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Although Paul Klee was not to visit Egypt until 1928, his fascination with the country and its wealth of historical symbolism is apparent from much earlier in his career. Indeed it was after his first trip to Tunisia in 1914 that Klee introduced the pictorial conceit of overwriting his architectural landscapes with a script-like application of looser brushstrokes, creating a pattern of pictorial and linguistic signs like a mystical language. Already these geometric patterns began to resemble Egyptian hieroglyphs, reiterating Klee's belief that 'symbols reassure the spirit that it need not depend exclusively on terrestrial experience' (W. Grohman, Paul Klee, London, 1954, p. 181). The links between Egyptian symbolism and Klee's works goes beyond the hieroglyphic quality of Klee's signs however. His affinity for birds and fish and the frequent depiction of the sun and moon in his work recalls the importance of these symbols in ancient Egyptian culture, while the pyramidal shapes and often subconscious appearance of Sphinx-like cats are less ambiguous.
Blaugeflügelte Vögel represents a deliberate attempt by Klee to recall Egyptian wall painting. The motif of a group of blue winged birds strutting around a central sun has obvious Egyptian connotations but it is in the medium and execution that his innovation and mastery of technique shines through. Klee deliberately abandons depth and perspective, depicting both wings of each bird in conscious mimicry of Egyptian figures. In addition he has employed an unusual and complex technique consisting of painting over a layer of gauze laid down on gesso. This creates a fresco-like effect which gives the painting the appearance of age consistent with faded and crumbling Egyptian wall paintings. The result is a richly-textured, relief effect which enhances the sense of antiquity and mystery surrounding Blaugeflügelte Vögel.
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