Lot 21
  • 21

Paul Klee

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  • Paul Klee
  • Gespenster – Abgang (Departure of the Ghost)
  • Signed Klee (lower right)

  • Watercolor, gouache, and pen and ink on muslin mounted on canvas

  • 37 3/4 by 27 ½ in.
  • 96 by 70.5 cm


Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf, Berlin, Paris & London (by 1931)

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris (by 1934)

Israel Ber Neumann (Graphisches Kabinett, New Art Circle, Neumann Gallery), Berlin & New York (by 1934)

Karl Nierendorf Gallery, New York (by 1937)

Burton Tremaine Collection, Meriden

Galerie Ernst Beyeler, Basel

Gallery Urban, Nagoya & Paris (by 1988)

Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zürich


Berlin, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Paul Klee.  Neue Bilder und Aquarelle, 1931, no. 15

New York, Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), Paul Klee, 1938, no. 43

New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Fifth Selection of Works by Paul Klee,1942, no. 26

Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Art Alliance, Paul Klee.  Paintings, Drawings, Prints, 1944, no. 24

New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Works by Klee, 1945, no. 9

New York, Knoedler Art Galleries, Painting Toward Architecture: The Miller Collection, 1948

San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Miller Company, 1948

Columbus, Art Gallery, 1948

Cincinnati, Walker Art Center, 1948

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Paul Klee 1879-1940.  A Retrospective Exhibition, 1967, no. 122

Basel, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, 1879-1940.  Gesamtausstellung, 1967, no. 122

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Klee, ‘Kunst ist ein Schöpfungsgleichnis,’ 1973, no. 61

Des Moines Art Center, Paul Klee, Paintings and watercolors from the Bauhaus years 1921-1931, 1973, no. 61

Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, The Tremaine Collection: 20th Century Masters.  The Spirit of Modernism, 1973

Cologne, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee.  Das Werk der Jahre 1919-1933. Gemälde, Handzeichnungen, Druckgraphik, 1979

Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, 1979

Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, The Spirit of Modernism,  The Tremaine Collection: 20th Century Masters, 1984

New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 20th Century European Masters, 1985-86 (catalogued as oil on muslin)

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Wege zur Abstraktion, 1989, no. 41

Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art; Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art; Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Paul Klee Retrospecktive, 1993, no. 175

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Surrealismus.  Der Traum des Jahrhunderts, 1995-96, no. 49


Karl Nierendorf, Paul Klee, Paintings, Watercolors 1913-1939, New York, 1941, illustrated

Rosamund Frost, “Klee: Pigeons Come Home to Roost,” Art News, vol. 41, New York, 1942, illustrated p. 24f

Henry Russell Hitchcock, Painting Toward Architecture, New York, 1948, illustrated p. 37

Beiträgen von Merle Armitage, Clement Greenberg, H. Devree, N. W. Ross, and James Johnson Sweeney, 5 Essays on Klee, New York, 1950, p. 110

Jürgen Glasesemer, Paul Klee.  Die farbingen Werke im Kunstmuseum Bern.  Gemälde, farbige Blätter, Hinterglasbilder und Plastiken, Bern, 1976, illustrated p. 143

The Paul Klee Foundation, Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 6, Bern, 2002, no. 5552, illustrated p. 113

Catalogue Note

Gespenster – Abgang (Departure of the Ghost), perhaps more than any other picture that the artist painted in 1931, signifies Klee’s coming of age as an independent artist of international repute.   By 1930, Klee felt that his artistic autonomy was being curtailed by his teaching obligations at the Bauhaus.  His involvement with Tristan Tzara and the Surrealists in the 1920s had whetted his appetite for more creative freedom, and he needed to break away from the strictures of the association in Dessau.  “I should perhaps be able to seize freedom as my right and for a while do nothing at all” he lamented then.  “But everywhere I have responsibilities and dealers; and then there is the problem of daily bread, of my reputation – it is all wrong.”  Just as the Bauhaus was beginning to falter under new management, Klee was offered a professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf in April 1931.   He immediately accepted the position and resigned from his teaching post at the Bauhaus.  The opportunity, Klee said later, “was exactly what I wanted, as I was free to confine my teaching to my own subject.”   Klee completed the present work right around this time, just as he was freeing himself from the shackles of Bauhaus dogma and giving up the ghosts of his past. 


“Art is a likeness of the Creation,” Klee once wrote. “Occasionally, it is an example, just as the terrestrial may exemplify the cosmic.”  Diego Rivera, who met Klee around the time he painted the present work, often referred to the Swiss artist as a magician and believed that Klee was a visual poet who could render the ethereal into form.   Indeed, Gespenster – Abgang evidences his particular artistic magic.  It incorporates the enigmatic, Surrealist sensibility that had inspired him in the late 1920s (see figs. 1 & 2), the draftsmanship and precision he had perfected during his years at the Bauhaus, and the use of ‘polyphonic’ color play which became his signature style of the 1930s.   Klee dedicated much of his production in 1931 to investigating the interrelationships of color by blending and interweaving opposing tones (see fig. 4).  In his drawings from this year, he also focused on anthropomorphizing his abstract forms in his rigorous line drawings (see fig. 3).  The present work is a beautiful example of both preoccupations combined into one composition.

With regard to Klee’s incorporation of the human form in his works from these years, Will Grohmann has written the following: "Entire human figures may emerge from the schematic pattern ... While the interplay of space and associative elements may be modified in various ways, it never produces volume - not even through added limbs or shaded edges. Any discrepancy between the structural system and the associative elements only serves to make the relationship of the two more expressive.  […] the precise unadorned geometry of the shapes appears to contradict their human significance to such a degree that the effect of the whole is comic - a comedy based on the form" (Will Grohmann, Klee, New York, 1954, p. 282).



At the heart of Klee’s distinct and methodical approach to painting was his belief that his art was a manifestation of his inner-most self.   The complex beauty of his paintings became the basis for his reputation as one of the great intellectual painters of the 20th century.   According to Andrew Kagan, “Klee’s greatness as a colorist and his gifts as a draftsman embrace a truly extraordinary range and diversity.  His seemingly tireless experimentation and his astounding inventiveness are among his distinctive characteristics, but they make his mature work rather difficult to grasp and understand in its entirely.  Klee may seem to be everywhere at once, with the most random approaches.  It must be understood that his ultimate ambitions embraced the concept of an art that would resolve all apparent contradiction, an art that would reconcile all dualities and oppositions – in other works, an art of ultimate synthesis.  ‘Truth,’ he declared, ‘demands that all elements be present at once’” (Andrew Kagan, Paul Klee At The Guggenheim Museum (exhibition catalogue), Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, 1993, pp. 26-27).


Fig. 1, The artist in his studio in 1924.

Fig. 2, Joan Miró, Peinture, 1927, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Gift of Pierre Matisse, in memory of Pierre Loeb, 1984.

Fig. 3, Paul Klee, Flucht vor sich (erstes Stadium), 1931, pen and cardboard on paper, mounted on cardboard, Kunstmuseum Bern, Paul Klee Stiftung

Fig. 4, Paul Klee, Schlossgarten, 1931, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund.