Abstract Trio

Artist: Paul Klee (German (born Switzerland), Münchenbuchsee 1879–1940 Muralto-Locarno)

Date: 1923

Medium: Watercolor and transferred printing ink on paper, bordered with gouache and ink, mounted on cardboard

Dimensions: 18 7/8 × 25 3/8 in. (47.9 × 64.5 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.315.36


This work provides a lesson in one's susceptibility to Klee's evocative titles. The artist copied the image of this watercolor from a smaller pencil drawing, which he called "Theater of Masks." Thus one looks for masks-albeit abstract ones-in the drawing. But in the watercolor, these same three sprightly forms might represent as well the abstract sound patterns of three voices or three instruments. An accomplished violinist himself, music played a great role in Klee's life. His favorite composers were Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. His passion for music is reflected in the titles of some of his works. According to his son Felix, of the 9,146 works Klee recorded in his oeuvre catalogue, more than 500 refer to the theater, masks, or music.