Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale


Paul Klee
1879 - 1940
signed Klee (upper right); titled and dated 1921/65 on the artist's mount
watercolour and brush and ink over pencil on paper laid down on tissue paper, laid down on the artist's mount
image size: 22.1 by 19cm. 8 5/8 by 7 1/2 in.
mount size: 32.7 by 24.8cm. 12 7/8 by 9 3/4 in.
Executed in 1921.
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Galka E. Scheyer, Braunschweig, New York & California
Karl Nierendorf, Cologne, Berlin & New York
Willem Beffie, Amsterdam, Brussels & New York
Leonard Lionni, Radda in Chianti & New York (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 9th November 2000, lot 45)
Galerie Thomas, Munich
Private Collection (acquired from the above)


Dresden, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, Paul Klee, 1924
Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Art Alliance, Paul Klee. Paintings, Drawings, Prints, 1944, no. 63
New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Works by Klee, 1945, no. 50


The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1999, vol. 3, no. 2656, illustrated p. 304

Catalogue Note

Bildnis einer Veilchenäugigen is a wonderful example of Klee’s mastery of both formal composition and use of colour. The simple, mask-like face is presented with a striking economy of form. The curves of the eyebrows rhyming with those of the hair, as well as the concave lines defining the neck stand in contrast to the rectangles of the pupils, nose and locks of hair. The watercolour is conceived in a subtle tonal harmony of yellow, ochre and violet hues, mounted by the artist on a yellow and violet tissue paper carefully chosen to enliven the overall composition. As Ann Temkin remarked: ‘Klee never used the medium of collage as a bearer of content as the Cubists did with the word play of their papiers collés. However, he often superimposed sheets and strips of paper to affect the size and texture of his compositions and he made judicious use of scissors to reduce or rearrange them’ (A. Temkin in Paul Klee (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1987, pp. 14-15).


The first owner of this work was Galka E. Scheyer (1889-1945), a collector and dealer whose primary interest was in ‘The Blue Four’: Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Klee and Feininger. In 1924 she moved from Germany to New York, and later settled in California. In America, particularly California, she befriended a number of collectors and museum curators, and energetically promoted the four artists, organising group and solo exhibitions, and giving lectures on their work. The present work was included in exhibitions organised by Scheyer and held in American galleries in the 1940s. It was mainly through her activities, as well as those of the dealer Curt Valentin, that works by Klee were introduced to American collections. Bildnis einer Veilchenäugigen was later in the collection of Leonard Lionni (1910-1999), the artist, writer and illustrator of children’s books. Born in the Netherlands, Lionni lived in Italy and the United States. The present work remained in his collection until his death in 1999, and was subsequently sold at auction in New York.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale