Lot 4
  • 4

Paul Klee

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Paul Klee
  • Beginnende Kühle (Incipient Coolness)
  • signed Klee (lower right); indistinctly signed Klee, dated 1937, numbered qu 16 and titled on the reverse
  • oil on board laid down on panel
  • 72.4 by 52.4cm.
  • 28 1/2 by 20 5/8 in.


Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris (until 1939)

Karl Nierendorf, Cologne, Berlin & New York (acquired in 1939)

Curt Valentin (Buchholz Gallery), Berlin & New York

Roy J. Friedman, Chicago (acquired from the above on 22nd May 1951)

Acquired from the estate of the above


New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee. An Exhibition in Honor of the Sixtieth Birthday of the Artist, 1940, no. 17

New York, Nierendorf Gallery, Paul Klee, 1941, no. 2

Cincinnati, The Cincinnati Modern Art Society, Paintings by Paul Klee and Mobiles and Stabiles by Alexander Calder, 1942, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, Buchholz Gallery, Paul Klee, 1950, no. 30

Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, Paintings by Paul Klee, 1951, no. 62

Chicago, The Arts Club, Paul Klee, 1956, no. 47

New York, Jan Krugier Gallery, Paul Klee. Traces of Memory, 1998, no. 10, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Paul Klee - Fulfillment in the Late Work, 2003, no. 25, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, Neue Galerie; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. & The Menil Collection, Houston, Klee in America, 2006-07, no. 94, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 168, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

New York, Dactyl Foundation, Dialogues, 2008, no. 13, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


The Artist's Handlist, 1937, no. 136 (qu 16)

Karl Nierendorf (ed.), Paul Klee, Paintings, Watercolors, 1913 to 1939, New York, 1941, illustrated pl. 55

Rosamund Frost, 'Klee: Pigeons Come Home to Roost', in Art News, vol. 41, June-July 1942, illustrated p. 25

Will Grohmann, Paul Klee, Geneva & Stuttgart, 1954, no. 366, illustrated p. 294

Jürg Spiller (ed.), Paul Klee. Das bildnerische Denken. Form- und Gestaltungslehre, Basel & Stuttgart, 1956, mentioned p. 517

Ellen Marsh, 'Paul Klee and the Art of Children', in College Art Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, Winter 1957, illustrated p. 145

Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Klee. A Study of his Life and Work, London, 1957, no. 122, illustrated p. 276

Max Huggler, Paul Klee. Die Malerei als Blick in den Kosmos, Frauenfeld & Stuttgart, 1969, p. 163

Jürg Spiller (ed.), Paul Klee. Unendliche Naturgeschichte. Prinzipielle Ordnung der bildnerischen Mittel verbunden mit Naturstudium, und konstruktive Kompositionswege. Form- und Gestaltungslehre, Basel & Stuttgart, 1970, illustrated p. 204

Rainer Crone & Joseph Leo Koerner, Paul Klee. Legends of the Sign, New York, 1991, illustrated fig. 7

Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee, Catalogue raisonné, Bern, 2003, vol. 7, no. 7072, illustrated p. 261; illustrated in colour p. 286


The board is stable and is laid down on a panel which is supported by a stretcher. The corners of the board are slightly worn and there are a few tiny losses on the extreme edges. There is no retouching visible under ultra-violet light. This work is in very good original condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly richer in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The late 1930s saw a remarkable period of creative energy invigorate Klee’s work. Beginnende Kühle, painted in 1937, characteristically represents a broad range of self-referential influences, both artistic and autobiographical. In employing a tessellated structure for the cityscape, the artist has used a form which recalls works painted earlier in the decade such as Stadtburg Kr. (fig. 1), which he developed during his ‘pointillist’ phase and which features in other paintings from 1937 such as Der Weg zur Stadtburg (Städtebild) (fig. 2). The rich hues and asymmetric arrangement of the composition also evoke the trip Klee took to Egypt at the end of 1928. Spending seven days in Cairo and the rest of the time in Luxor and Aswâr, this two-month sojourn had a profound impact on his art. The 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 an income in exchange for preferential prices and direct acquisition of his works. Shortly after his return to Dessau, Klee began an important series of works based on Egyptian motifs exploring the historically-rich topography and spiritual atmosphere of Egypt, which he revisited in other paintings in 1937 such as Legende vom Nil (fig. 3). In Beginnende Kühle Klee has chosen to represent the cool dusks that descend upon Cairo when the heat of the day subsides and when the Cairenes gather and stroll about their city.

Klee moved to Bern in 1934, where he was dogged by health problems throughout the late 1930s. In 1935 he was struck down by a severe bout of illness which affected his immune system. As a result Klee’s artistic production dwindled dramatically – in 1936 he produced no more than 25 works. With the renewal of his strength the following year Klee’s work underwent a spell of extravagant experimentation and renewed confidence. As Christine Hopfengart suggests: ‘Klee’s creative intensity was wrung from his illness, and represented the tangible result of his persistent will to live. Like Picasso, whose artistic activity increased in a final surge, Klee too worked ceaselessly against the clock, and his drive to visually express himself grew steadily before his death (C. Hopfengart, Paul Klee. Life and Work, Bern, 2012, p. 236). And whilst in Germany his works were the subject of persecution, declared Entartete Kunst by the regime, these late years saw Klee’s international reputation as a key figure of modernism soar to new heights, especially in the new world.

Beginnende Kühle was for much of its history in America. As part of Galka E. Scheyer’s The Blue Four alongside Kandinsky, Jawlensky and Feinginer, and supported by many prominent émigré dealers, such as Karl Nierendorf and Kurt Valentin in New York (both early owners of the present work), Klee had long enjoyed a great deal of exposure and public acclaim in the United States. In 2006 Beginnende Kühle was included in an exhibition organised by The Menil Collection in Houston which explored the impact of Klee’s work on American artists and collectors. Discussing the present work, Elizabeth Hutton Turner uses the example of the 1942 exhibition held in Cincinnati to illustrate the impact Klee’s work made on American art; and in particular it was Alexander Calder’s work which most clearly bore the influence of Klee’s paintings: ‘In Beginnende Kühle, within a composition of oil on cardboard not much longer than the extension of a forearm, Klee built a virtual city out of the movement of line – a structured rhythm dense with irregular patterns – and rectangles that bring intonations of blue out of orange. Despite the artists’ use of vastly different media and scale, a similar vibrancy emerges from their respective discipline in approaching their materials. As the catalogue stated “Although their media differ, Klee and Calder are allied by a rhythmic lightness and balance, a gay vibrancy and, especially, in Klee, by an unequalled sense of empathy”’ (E. H. Turner, op. cit. (exhibition catalogue), Menil Collection, Houston, 2006, p. 230).