Executed in 1919, Paul Klee’s Die Glocke!
vividly depicts the pealing of bells at night. The expressionistic arrangement of the buildings and trees, rendered in a gas-lit palette with strong contrasts and enhanced by the scratching out technique - reminiscent of engraving - instill the sense of threat intimated by the exclamatory title and sharply defined imagery. Architecture was one of the most important subjects of the artist’s work, as Christina Thomson notes: ‘Architectural and urbanistic forms permeate his entire œuvre, at both a structural-theoretical level and with respect to motif. Klee gives his architecture countless faces. He represents it in cities, villages, and houses; he piles it up into palaces, temples, and castles, concentrates it into urban bundles, blends it with natural landscapes, transforms it into a stage, lets it withdraw into interior spaces, and dissects it into individual parts. […] Klee causes real architectural forms to collide with invented or symbolic elements, mixing the familiar with the visionary and space with dream. The result is fantastical cities, castles in the air, and dream worlds that fuse into a singularly dynamic architectural cosmos: nothing is rigid and purely geometric; everything pulsates, swells, follows, hovers, or glows’ (C. Thomson in The Klee Universe
(exhibition catalogue), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 231).
In 1919 Klee secured a three-year contract with the dealer Hans Goltz, whose influential Munich gallery promoted his art, including a large retrospective exhibition of some 370 works held in 1920. It was later that year that Klee was invited by the architect Walter Gropius to teach at the Bauhaus, and subsequently moved to Weimar in 1921, when his work would become increasingly abstract and geometricised. The humorous note and child-like style of the present work and many others from this time were probably a reaction to the harsh reality of the aftermath of the First World War.
The first owners of Die Glocke! were the expressionist painter Heinrich Campendonk and his wife Adda. Campendonk and Klee formed part of the Blaue Reiter group based in Munich. Together with Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, the artists sought to develop a new means of artistic expression and rejected the prevailing artistic theories of the time, in particular that of the Impressionists. Klee gave Die Glocke! to Campendonk in 1920 and it remained in his family's possession until 2006.