Guggenheim
Introduction

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Paul Klee
Full Moon in the Garden (Vollmond im Garten), 1934
Oil on canvas with printing
50.3 x 60.1 cm
Hermann und Margrit Rupf-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern
© Paul Klee's Estate/VEGAP, 2016

“Color possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.” Paul Klee, 1914[1]

Paul Klee (Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, 1879—Muralto, Switzerland, 1940) and the collector Hermann Rupf (1880–1962) met in Bern (Switzerland) in 1913 on one of the artist’s trips back home to visit his family [2]. One year after meeting him, attracted by his work, Hermann and his wife Margrit (1887–1961) decided to purchase a group of three drawings by the painter; this marked their first purchase [3]. In the subsequent years, they continued to collect Klee’s works and became close to the artist and his wife Lily.

For several years, Klee worked in the Bauhaus schools in Weimar, where he had moved in 1922, and Dessau. After 1931, shortly before the Nazis closed the Bauhaus, Klee began to teach at the Düsseldorf Academy. After Hitler was made Chancellor of Germany in 1933, his situation became fraught. In mid-March of that same year, the Nazi police (Ordnungspolizei) entered his apartment when he was gone and confiscated his materials [4]. Fearful of being arrested, Klee immediately fled the country and took refuge in Switzerland for a few weeks; in the meantime, his works were seized and labelled as “degenerate art” [5]. Finally, Klee was stripped of his position as an instructor at the Düsseldorf Academy after being disparaged on official posters and in the German press [6]. In December 1933, after a jobless stint, Klee was forced to leave Germany, and he and his wife sought refuge in his parents’ house in Bern [7]. His friends Hermann and Margrit Rupf and the dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1880–1962) awaited him in Switzerland. Through the mediation of his close friend Rupf, Kahnweiler became Klee’s exclusive representative abroad [8].

That same year, Klee began to experience the symptoms of an illness whose nature led his output to drop drastically. Full Moon in the Garden (Vollmond im Garten) was painted in 1934 at the onset of his illness. Kahnweiler took the painting to Paris and exhibited at the Galerie Simon, where Rupf purchased it. Klee was a key artist in Rupf’s collection, which contains a total of 190 of the painter’s works [9].

Questions

Take a careful look at Paul Klee’s work. Take your time to notice all the details. What do you see? What figures can you make out? Describe how Klee used color in this work. Does it convey any particular mood, feeling or sensation? Does this palette or color combination remind you of anything specific?

The title of the work is Full Moon in the Garden. How did the way you see the work change after learning its title? Do you think that Klee depicts any of the traits that a garden may have, or did he eliminate any trace of reality? Explain your answer. Do you think that this place may have really existed? Why? Imagine that you can leap inside the painting. What areas would you like to explore further? Is there any special part that intrigues you or draws your attention? Once you were there, what would you see? What would you smell? What or who would you hear?

Activities

Reorganize the work and create a new collage

Make a color print-out of Klee’s work. Carefully cut out all the shapes you see. You can decide whether to cut out several shapes together or all of them separately. Then take a piece of cardboard and reorganize the work in any way you like by gluing on the different pieces. You can cut out new shapes from different kinds of colored paper and add them to your composition. Use watercolors to paint the background or to change the color of any of the original figures by painting over them. Display your work next to Klee’s and give it a title. How has your vision of the painting changed? Write a wall text to accompany the work in which you explain your creative process.

Paint your own Klee-style garden

To begin, find your favorite garden: it can be in a park in your neighborhood, a special field you go to with your family, or simply the garden at your house. Klee chose a special moment to paint his garden, when the moon was full and lighting it up. Think about what moment you would like to capture in a scene of your garden, and take a picture to refer to as you paint.

Once you have taken the photograph, notice how the garden is lit up at the moment you captured. What things stand out at this time of day or night? Klee chose just a few colors to create his work, but he used several different tones of each color. Look carefully at your photo, decide on the main color of your work, and start your creation. Your painting does not have to be realistic. Klee liked to simplify shapes, so you can, too.

Learn more

Degenerate art (Entartete Kunst) was the disparaging term that the Nazi regime in Germany used to describe all modern art. After 1933, all pieces regarded as “degenerate art” were banned in favor of what the Nazis called “heroic art.” In a group, learn more about these banned artists, why they were censured by the regime, what the Nazis did to publicize the names of the artists on the banned list, and what happened to these works of art. Finally, each group should present what they learned to the rest of the class.

NOTES

  1. Paul Klee, The Diaries of Paul Klee, 1898–1918, Berkley, University of California Press, 1968, p. 297.
  2. http://www.rupf-stiftung.ch/?m=4&m2=1&lang=e&show=2&dirid=24
  3. http://www.zpk.org/en/exhibitions/review_0/2015/klee-in-bern-968.html
  4. http://www.culturekiosque.com/art/exhibiti/paulklee.html
  5. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-paul-klee-making-visible
  6. http://www.zpk.org/en/collection-research/paul-klee-(1879-1940)-49.html
  7. http://www.culturekiosque.com/art/exhibiti/paulklee.html
  8. http://www.rupf-stiftung.ch/?m=4&m2=2&lang=e&show=2&seite=&dirid=24
  9. http://www.rupf-stiftung.ch/?m=4&m2=1&lang=e&show=2&dirid=24

VOCABULARY

Degenerate art (Entartete Kunst): This was the disparaging term that the Nazi regime in Germany used to describe all modern art. After 1933, all pieces regarded as “degenerate art” were banned in favor of what the Nazis called “heroic art.”

Bauhaus: The Bauhaus was a revolutionary design, art, and architecture school established by the pioneering modern architect Walter Gropius in Weimar (Germany) in 1919 and closed by the Prussian authorities when the Nazi party took over. Its teachers included Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky.

RESOURCES

Biography of Paul Klee
https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/paul-klee

Collection of the Rupf Foundation
http://www.rupf-stiftung.ch/?m=4&m2=1&lang=e&show=2&dirid=24

Biography of Paul Klee in Spanish
http://www.museothyssen.org/thyssen/ficha_artista/311
http://www.zpk.org/

Tate Gallery. Exhibition of the works of Paul Klee.
http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-paul-klee-making-visible

Visual list of the works of Paul Klee
http://paulklee.fr/html/1934b.html

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