Paul Klee (German (born Switzerland), Münchenbuchsee 1879–1940 Muralto-Locarno)
Gouache and traces of ink on three sheets of paper mounted on paper mounted on cardboard
9 3/8 × 11 7/8 in. (23.8 × 30.2 cm)
The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987
On view at The Met Breuer on Floor 5
Born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, a suburb of Bern, in 1879, Paul Klee nevertheless retained the German citizenship of his father. In his youth he was torn between music and painting but decided to go to Munich (1898–1901) to learn to draw. After an extended trip to Italy (October 1901–May 1902), Klee returned to Bern, where he undertook a prolonged self-education as an artist. Later, Klee's contact with Wassily Kandinsky, whom he met in 1911 and with whom he had a lifelong friendship, and his association with the Blaue Reiter group, which he joined in 1912, proved decisive. He was also influenced by the Cubism of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and took great interest in the paintings of Robert Delaunay and August Macke, which employed abstract planes of translucent color. On a trip to Tunisia in 1914, Klee fell in love with color, and by 1915 he had devised the unique style of abstracted forms and symbols that characterized much of his later work. Klee had many talents; besides being a painter and a draftsman, he was also a master violinist, poet, art and music critic, and teacher.
Klee was most productive while teaching at the Bauhaus, first in Weimar (1921–26) and then in Dessau (1926–31). During those years he produced almost half of his nearly ten thousand works on paper, mostly small-scale watercolors and drawings. Klee taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf from 1931 to 1933 but left Germany when his art was declared "degenerate" by the National Socialists. Returning to Bern he was diagnosed with scleroderma, an incurable disease that made it increasingly difficult for him to work during the last seven years of his life.
"Temple Gardens" appears to recall Klee's impressions from his visit to Tunisia with Macke in April 1914. The watercolor has the brilliance of a stained-glass window on a sunny day. Stairways lead to the doors of various garden pavilions, palm trees peek over sections of high walls, and domed towers are here and there.
Klee sometimes liked to rearrange his compositions with scissors. Perhaps in this instance, he thought the work looked too symmetrical and therefore cut it into three sections and moved the center one to the left. Now the site depicted in "Temple Gardens," which earlier was only pleasantly full of the "angles and corners" he had admired in Kairouan, has become truly labyrinthine.
Inscription: Signed (upper right): Klee; dated and inscribed on cardboard (lower left): 1920/186/ II; (lower right): Tempelgärten
the artist (until d. 1940); his widow, Lily Klee, Bern (1940–46); Paul Klee Society, later Paul Klee Foundation, Bern (1946–47; in 1947 to Rosengart); [Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne, 1947; sold in 1947 to Lebrecht]; Danilo Lebrecht (Lorenzo Montano), Lugano and Geneva (1947–d. 1958); by descent to private collection, Geneva (1958–76; sale, Christie's, London, November 30, 1976, no. 66, sold to Berggruen); Heinz Berggruen, Paris and Berlin (1976–87; his gift to MMA)
Kunsthalle Basel. "Gedächtnis-Ausstellung Paul Klee," February 15–March 23, 1941, no. 163.
Saint-Paul. Fondation Maeght. "Paul Klee," July 9–September 30, 1977, no. 32 (lent by a private collection, Paris).
Cologne. Kunsthalle. "Paul Klee. Das Werk der Jahre 1919–1933. Gemälde, Handzeichnungen, Druckgraphik," April 11–June 4, 1979, no. 32 (lent by a private collection, Paris).
Munich. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. "Paul Klee: Das Frühwerk 1883–1922," December 12, 1979–March 2, 1980, no. 436 (lent by a private collection, Switzerland).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Selection Two: Twentieth-Century Art," June 4–September 2, 1985, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Klee: The Berggruen Klee Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 6–July 31, 1988, unnumbered cat. (p. 124).
Kunsthalle Tübingen. "Paul Klee: Die Sammlung Berggruen im Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York und im Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris," January 22–April 16, 1989, unnumbered cat. (p. 125).
London. Tate Gallery. "Paul Klee: The Berggruen Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris," May 17–August 13, 1989, unnumbered cat. (p. 125).
Mexico City. Centro Cultural Arte Contemporáneo. "Paul Klee: Selección de sesenta obras. The Berggruen Klee Collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 1989–January 1990, no. 21.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee Landscapes," November 20, 1997–February 8, 1998, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes by Klee and Kiefer," January 19–September 30, 2001, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee's Best," May 24–September 22, 2002, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee the Voyager," February 4–May 4, 2003, no catalogue.
Frankfurt. Städel Museum. "The Painter's Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight," November 24, 2006–March 11, 2007, no. 120.
Munich. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. "The Painter's Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight," April 5–July 8, 2007, no. 120.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bauhaus Textiles," January 29–July 28, 2013, no catalogue.
Daniel Abadie. Paul Klee. [Paris], 1977, p. 168, ill. p. 40.
Wolfgang Kersten. Paul Klee. "Zerstorung, der Konstruktion zuliebe?". Ed. Heinrich Klotz. Marburg, 1987, pp. 64–65, 96, 147, 154, fig. 22 and ill. p. 65, notes that the original work was cut into three sections and rearranged with the center piece moved to the left.
Sabine Rewald. Paul Klee: The Berggruen Klee Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 63, 124–27, 277, 317, ill. (color, overall and detail, bw), comments that it invokes Klee's 1914 Tunisian trip.
Robin Stemp. "Artist as Transmitter." Artist (September 1989), p. 17, ill.
Josef Helfenstein and Christian Rümelin, ed. Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. Vol. 3, 1919–1922. New York, 1999, p. 239, no. 2533, ill.
Mareike Hennig inThe Painter's Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight. Ed. Sabine Schulze. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 296–97, no. 120, ill. (color), comments that the rearrangement of this picture into three parts resembles a triptych, transforming the subject into "a sacred spot even on a formal level".
Barbara Eschenburg inThe Painter's Garden: Design, Inspiration, Delight. Ed. Sabine Schulze. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 330–31.