By 1930 Klee’s career was at its peak: he enjoyed international recognition as a leading figure of contemporary art and was a renowned representative of the Bauhaus, where he had taught since 1920. On the occasion of the artist’s fiftieth birthday in December 1929, the Berlin gallerist Alfred Flechtheim organised a large retrospective, which then travelled to The Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Cahiers d'Art in Paris commissioned a volume of reproductions of his œuvre; and he was celebrated at the Bauhaus with an enormous package of gifts dropped by parachute from an aeroplane. Will Grohmann observed: 'Klee was now one of the few artists in a position to decide the future course of art. Every exhibition of his was eagerly anticipated, and critics measured him by international standard' (Will Grohmann, Paul Klee, New York, 1954, p. 251).
From 1933 the changing political climate in Germany made it increasingly difficult for Klee to make his living as an artist. Consequently, in 1934 Klee returned to his home town Bern in Switzerland. Prompted by political uncertainty and personal health problems the 1930s became a time of inner reflection and meditation for the artist, using at times unconventional media. As such, Klee became increasingly experimental. The present work was executed in such spirit: Klee appears to have primed the paper before working it in gouache, creating a fascinating texture and beautifully varied tonalities. The spiritual quality and calm serenity of the present work also calls to mind Alexej von Jawlensky’s numerous depictions of faces, titled Meditationen, which he created around the same time.
The present work’s significance was immediately recognised: during the artist’s lifetime, Wird erwachen was exhibited as part of Klee’s major retrospective at the Kunsthalle Basel in the autumn of 1935 and remained in the artist’s collection until his death in 1940. Then in the collection of the artist’s widow, Wird erwachen was subsequently owned by two prominent figureheads of Modern Art: first Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the art historian, collector and one of the most important dealers of the 20th Century, and later by Pierre Janlet, director of the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels and owner of one of the greatest collections of Modern Art ever assembled.
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