Lot 36
  • 36

Paul Klee

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
314,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Paul Klee
  • Der Clown Pyramidal (The Clown Pyramidal)
  • signed Klee (lower right); titled, dated III 1929 and numbered C.6. on the artist's mount
  • gouache and brush and ink on paper laid down on the artist's mount


Otto Ralfs, Braunschweig (acquired by 1930)

Lily Klee, Bern (acquired by 1940)

Klee-Gesellschaft, Bern (acquired from the above in 1946)

Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (acquired from the above in 1949)

Pierre Janlet, Brussels (acquired from the above in 1949)

Berggruen & Cie, Paris

Mr & Mrs John Cowles Sr., Minneapolis (acquired by 1971)

Richard S. Davis, U.S.A.

Private Collection, U.S.A. (acquired by descent from the above. Sold: Christie's, New York, 15th November 1989, lot 41)

Yuji Okusu, Tokyo (until 1998)

Private Collection, Japan (sold: Sotheby's, New York, 17th November 1998, lot 347)

Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Drawings and Watercolors from Minnesota Private Collections, 1971, no. 70, illustrated in the catalogue

Geneva, Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie., Paul Klee. Traces de la mémoire, 1998-99, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz,  Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 158, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, The Timeless Eye. Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection, 1999, no. 170, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin Tiempo. Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Coleccion Jan y Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2000, no. 167, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 165, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Lugano, Museo d'Arte, Klee-Melotti, 2013, no. 70, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


The artist's handlist, 1929, no. 126 (C.6)

Will Grohmann, Paul Klee, Geneva & Stuttgart, 1954, mentioned p. 268

Will Grohmann, Paul Klee, London, 1966, mentioned p. 36

Mark L. Rosenthal, Paul Klee and the Arrow, Iowa, 1979, illustrated p. 188

The Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue Raisonné, Bern, 2001, vol. 5, 4882, illustrated p. 334                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Catalogue Note

Throughout his career Klee travelled extensively and his experiences proved a great stimulus to his art. From 24th December 1928 until 10th January 1929, Klee visited Egypt, spending seven days in Cairo and the rest of the time in Luxor and Aswâr. This trip was sponsored by the Klee Society, a group of collectors of the artist’s work who paid regular contributions to the painter in order to provide him with a regular income in exchange for preferential prices and the opportunity to acquire works directly from him. Shortly after his return to Dessau, Klee began an important series of works based on motifs which explored the historically rich topography and spiritual atmosphere of Egypt, including Der Clown Pyramidal, Hauptweg und Nebenwege and Die Sonne streift die Ebene (figs. 1 & 2). Christina Thompson writes: ‘During his vacations, Klee not only enjoyed a relaxing respite from daily life and more time to work but also the opportunity to gather sensual impressions and inspiring experience, which he took back with him from his travels. The reservoirs of motifs, forms, idea, and sketches that he gathered in this way often served, even years later, as a well spring of ideas’, and commenting on his works based on trips abroad, ‘In these works architectural elements join the landscape, and thus the interplay between natural and man-made forms is pictorially explored’ (C. Thompson in The Klee Universe (exhibition catalogue), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2008, p. 149). Der Clown Pyramidal is an exceptional example of the manner in which Klee drew inspiration from his surroundings and his ability to capture the emotional potency of landscape.

Describing the context of the present work Anita Beloubek-Hammer writes: 'It was not the treasures of antiquity there that fascinated him the most, but rather the experience of the Nile landscape with its powerful watercourse, the lush fruitful land on the river’s banks, and the endless desert with its pyramids. The light of the southern sun inspired an intense engagement with colour, which led to a compositional schema featuring horizontal strips of colour – as in this watercolour. In the increasingly rational working atmosphere at the Dessau Bauhaus, Klee also sought exact mathematical principles in art, but without ever denying the priority of intuition in each construction’ (A. Beloubek-Hammer, in The Timeless Eye – Master Drawings from the Jan and Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski Collection (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 344).

This horizontal striping, echoing as it does the stratification of the land along the great flood plane of the Nile, is further explained by Sabine Rewald: 'These horizontal stripes cover the entire surface from edge to edge and from top to bottom with here and there vertical or diagonal lines and acute or wide angles interrupting their flow and colouring. The latter denote dunes, shifts in altitude, or architectural accents in a desert that stretches monotonously toward infinity' (S. Rewald, The Berggruen Klee Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988, p. 227). In the present work the pyramids at Giza, which Klee visited on 26th December, have been playfully anthropomorphised into the features of a motley-toned clown, as Will Grohmann notes: 'The Clown Pyramidal is like a parody on a sphinx irradiated by an evening glow' (W. Grohmann, op. cit., 1955, p. 281).