This painting is from Klee’s Magic Square series, which grew out of a visit to Tunisia in 1914. Klee embraced the full power of abstraction by fractioning the landscape into squares, which seem to extend beyond the edges of the painting. The squares themselves can be viewed as odd-shaped stones assembled to form a mosaic. The work also reveals Klee’s preoccupation with color theory, which informed his teaching at the Bauhaus.
Heinrich and Antonie Kirchhoff, Wiesbaden (1926–his d. 1934); Antonie Kirchhoff, Wiesbaden (1934–at least 1937; on consignment to Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, July 31, 1936; returned by Möller to Kirchhoff, July 1, 1937); her son, Karlheinz Kirchhoff; probably Alexej von Jawlensky, Wiesbaden (until d. 1941; his estate, Wiesbaden, from 1941); probably Lisa Kümmel, Wiesbaden (1941–d. 1944); private collection, Germany (1944–71; sold in 1971, through Siegfried Adler, to Berggruen); Heinz Berggruen, Paris and Berlin (1971–84; his gift to MMA)
Brunswick. Schlossmuseum. "Paul-Klee-Ausstellung," January 10–February 14, 1926, no. 36 (as for sale, Mk. 1400).
Kunsthaus Zürich. "Ausstellung," April 11–May 5,1926, no. 35 (as for sale, SFr 1750).
Wiesbaden. Neues Museum and Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden. "August-Ausstellung 1926," August 1926, no. 32.
Oldenburg. Elisabethstrasse 2. "Vereinigung für junge Kunst," October 6–26, 1926, no catalogue.
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden. "30 deutsche Künstler aus unserer Zeit," April 6–early June 1929, no. 17 (lent by the Kirchhoff collection).
Paris. Berggruen et Cie. "Paul Klee. Les années 20," May–July 1971, no. 48.
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. 203).
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. 215).
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. 215).
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. 49.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Late Klee," December 6, 1996–April 13, 1997, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paul Klee at the Bauhaus," April 18–August 17, 1997, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee Paintings," September 14, 1999–March 12, 2000, 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.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee Abstract," September 5–December 7, 2003, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee: The Late Years," March 19–June 27, 2004, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Klee: His Years at the Bauhaus (1921–1931)," November 19, 2004–April 3, 2005, no catalogue.
Bauhaus-Museum Weimar. "Das Bauhaus kommt aus Weimar," April 1–July 5, 2009, no. 5.059.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity," November 8, 2009–January 25, 2010, no. 88.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Late Klee," October 18, 2012–March 31, 2013, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Humor and Fantasy: The Berggruen Paul Klee Collection," September 1, 2016–January 2, 2017, no catalogue.
Eva-Maria Triska inPaul Klee. Das Werk der Jahre 1919–1933: Gemälde, Handzeichnungen, Druckgraphik. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Köln. Cologne, 1979, p. 66.
Eva-Maria Triska. "Die Quadratbilder Paul Klees—ein Beitrag zur Analyse formaler Ausdrucksmittel in seinem Werk und seiner Theorie. Mit einem Exkurs zur Ableitung von Klees Farbenlehre." PhD diss., Universität Wien, 1980, p. 107, pl. 28, as "Maibild abstrakt".
Christian Geelhaar. Paul Klee: Life and Work. Woodbury, N. Y., 1982, p. 46, fig. 35 (color) [German ed., Cologne, 1974, pp. 53–54, ill. (color)], as "Abstract May Picture," in the Galerie Berggruen & Cie, Paris.
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. 202–3, 284, 318, ill. (color and bw), fig. 50 (installation photo), reproduces a 1924 photograph of Klee's Weimar studio showing this picture in an earlier state; notes that after the photograph was taken, Klee altered the colors of some of the squares in the lower right hand corner, and most likely signed and dated the painting in May 1925 when the Bauhaus reopened in Dessau.
Roger Bevan. "Exhibition Reviews: The Metropolitan Museum as a Museum of Modern Art: Year II." Apollo 128 (October 1988), p. 282, fig. 2.
Phyllis Williams Lehmann. "A Roman Source for Klee's 'Athlete's Head'." Art Bulletin 72 (December 1990), p. 646 n. 39.
Ulrich Bischoff. Paul Klee. Munich, 1992, pp. 49–50, 174, ill.
Monika Goedl inPaul Klee: Die Zeit der Reife. Werke aus der Sammlung der Familie Klee. Ed. Manfred Fath. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Mannheim. Munich, 1996, p. 25 n. 22.
Wolfgang Kersten. "Paul Klee. Kunst der Reprise." Lehmbruck, Brancusi, Léger, Bonnard, Klee, Fontana, Morandi: Texte zu Werken im Kunstmuseum Winterthur. Ed. Dieter Schwarz. Winterthur, 1997, p. 110, fig. 7 (color).
Josef Helfenstein and Christian Rümelin, ed. Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. Ed. Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne. Vol. 4, 1923–1926. New York, 2000, p. 350, no. 3801, ill.
Christine Hopfengart. "Klee an den deutschen 'Museen der Gegenwart', 1916–1933." Paul Klee: Kunst und Karriere. Beiträge des Internationalen Symposiums in Bern. Ed. Oskar Bätschmann and Josef Helfenstein. Bern, 2000, p. 74 n. 49.
Bradford Epley and Christa Haiml inKlee and America. Ed. Josef Helfenstein and Elizabeth Hutton Turner. Exh. cat., Neue Galerie, New York. Houston, 2006, pp. 256–57, cite it as an example of works on cardboard where Klee painted the stretcher in order to integrate it with the picture.
Gerda Wendermann inDas Bauhaus kommt aus Weimar. Ed. Ute Ackermann and Ulrike Bestgen. Exh. cat., Bauhaus-Museum, Weimar. Berlin, 2009, pp. 193, 353, no. 5.059, colorpl. 301.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 410, ill. (color).
Katja Förster and Stefan Frey, ed. "In inniger Freundschaft": Alexej Jawlensky, Paul und Lily Klee, Marianne Werefkin. Der Briefwechsel. Zurich, 2013, p. 131, note that during Exh. Wiesbaden 1926, Klee wished to place his painting "Fish Magic" (1925; Philadelphia Museum of Art; HR 3766) in the Kirchhoff collection, but that the Kirchhoffs chose this picture instead.
Matthew Gale inThe EY Exhibition—Paul Klee: Making Visible. Exh. cat., Tate Modern. London, 2013, p. 110.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 524, ill. (color), colorpl. 444.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2019, p. 410, ill. (color).
Max Hollein. Modern and Contemporary Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2019, ill. p. 47 (color).
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