Blumen in Gläsern, 1925
Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf/Berlin/Paris, London, on consignment until 1927.
Rudolf Probst, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides: Das Kunsthaus, Dresden/Mannheim, on consignment, 1927 – 1933.
The artist, Düsseldorf and Bern, returned from Probst in 1933.
Hans and Erina Meyer-Benteli, Bern, acquired from the artist or from the artist’s estate.
Private collection, Switzerland.
H. Bürgi, Letter to Paul Klee, dated 2 Jan. 1933 (reprinted in Frey & Helfenstein, 2000).
W. Grohman, Paul Klee, Stuttgart, 1954, pp. 309, 415, no. 59 (illus. p. 391).
M. Huggler, ‘Die Kunsttheorie von Paul Klee’, in Beer, Ellen J. (ed.), Festschrift Hans R. Hahnloser, Basel/Stuttgart, 1961, p. 526.
M. Huggler, Paul Klee, Die Malerei als Blick in den Kosmos, Frauenfeld/Stuttgart, 1969, p. 81.
J. Spiller, Paul Klee: Unendliche Naturgeschichte (The Nature of Nature), eng. trans., London, 1973, vol. 2 (illus. p. 148).
R. Verdi, ‘Paul Klee’s Fish Magic, An Interpretation’, in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 116, no. 852, London, March 1974, p. 154.
S. Frey & J. Helfenstein (eds.), Paul Klee Rediscovered: Works from the Bürgi Collection, London, 2000, p. 256 (illus. fig. 4).
Paul Klee Foundation (ed.), Paul Klee Catalogue Raisonné: vol. 4, 1923 – 1926, London, 2001, no. 3691 (illus. in colour p. 318)
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Austellung (Paul Klee, Paul Altherr, Rodolphe-Théophile Bossard, Emil Bressler, Willy F. Burger, Max Burgmeier, Eugen Maurer, August Speck), 11 April – 5 May 1926, no. 31.
Wiesbaden, Neues Museum, August – Ausstellung, Aug. 1926, no. 24.
Dresden, Galerie Ernst Arnold, Sonderausstellung von 100 Gemalden und Aquarelles von Paul Klee aus dem Jahren 1908 – 1926, Nov. 1926.
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Wege und Richtungen der abstrakten Malerei in Europa, 30 Jan. – 27 March 1927, no. 146.
Dusseldorf, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Landschaften ans cagnes und stilleben von Auguste Renoir, Paul Klee, Olgemälde und Aquarelle, April 1927, no. 22.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Bauhaus Dessau: J. Albers, L. Feininger, W. Kandinsky, P. Klee, O. Schlemmer, 20 April – 9 May 1929, no. 102.
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Garten und Blume in der bildenden kunst, 29 June – 31 Aug. 1929, no. 116.
Duisburg, Duisburger Museumsverein, 6 Ausstellung. Deutschekunst der letzten 5 Jahre, 7 Dec. 1929 – 6 Jan. 1930, no. 37.
Bern, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, 23 Feb. – 24 March 1935, no. 22.
Basel, Kunsthalle, Paul Klee, 27 Oct. – 24 Nov. 1935, no. 16.
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Paul Klee, Fitz Hut, 26 April – 3 June 1936, no. 28.
Schaffhausen, Museum Allerheiligen, Abstrakte und Surrealistische Kunst in der Schweiz. Klee, Wiemken, Bill, Bodmer, Brignoni, Erni, Fischli, 17 Jan. – 24 Feb. 1943, no. 11.
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Paul Klee 1879 – 1940: Ausstellung aus Schweizer Privatsammlung. Zum 10 Todestag 29 Juni 1950, 29 June – 20 Aug. 1950, no. 24.
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Paul Klee: Ausstellung in Verbindung mit der Paul Klee-Stiftung, 11 Aug. – 4 Nov. 1956, no. 522.
London, Tate Modern, Paul Klee: Making Visible, 16 Oct. 2013 – 9 March 2014, unnumbered.
Blumen in Glasern dates from the height of Klee’s transformative and highly influential Bauhaus period. In January of 1921, Klee was hired by Walter Gropius to join the faculty at the Bauhaus, the German Arts and Crafts school established in Weimar. While there, he devoted himself to picture theory, looking specifically at the relationship between colours and discussing the topic at length with his pupils. Colour was a topic that had fascinated him throughout his career, prompting him to write in 1914: ‘Colour possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will always possess me. I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Colour and I are one. I am a painter.’ (quoted in F. Klee, ed., The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898 – 1918, Berkeley, 1964, p. 297). The artists he admired – among them his friend Wassily Kandinsky, and Robert Delaunay the Orphist painter – were similarly preoccupied with the potential of colour.
The subject of this work was also of great significance to Klee, who maintained that the artist’s relationship with the natural world was of paramount importance. ‘The artist is a human being, himself nature and a part in the realm of nature,’ Klee declared. In 1925, when he painted Blumen in Glasern, Klee was still living with his family in Weimar, the Bauhaus not yet having moved to Dessau. A selection of wildflowers is divided among equally brightly-coloured vases, their silhouettes set against a dark ground and encased within the artist’s original box frame. The forms create a patchwork of jewel tones that approaches, yet stops short of, pure abstraction, instead emphasising the ornamentation of the surface. Klee’s interest in formal design was bolstered by a 1914 trip to Tunisia in the company of fellow artist (and founding member of Der Blaue Reiter) August Macke. Certain elements, such as ‘mechanical’ flowers ‘comprised of an aggregate of like parts, whether petals or leaves’ (to use Verdi’s description; op. cit., p. 152) feature in other works from the 1920s such as Fish Magic (1925). Verdi goes on to describe the ‘ghostly, nocturnal setting over which a handful of brightly coloured, and often seemingly unrelated forms are strewn’ (op. cit., p. 148). He considers this group of dark-ground works to be among the most profound of Klee’s paintings.
Works from the Bauhaus period typically reveal a tension between otherworldliness and dream-like qualities, and the practical formality of geometry and design. Ultimately, however, Klee found himself in conflict with the pure abstraction and industrialisation promoted by the Bauhaus, and its demanding schedule left little time for his own work. He accepted a professorship at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and tendered his resignation from the Bauhaus, as of 1 April 1931.
Blumen in Glasern was initially offered for sale by Alfred Flechtheim, who had it on consignment until 1927. Flechtheim had first sought to establish business dealings with Klee as early as 1919, but at that point Klee was under contract to Hans Goltz of Munich, an agreement that only expired in 1925. Once he was free from this obligation, Klee established the Klee Society, managing his own sales through various dealers, including Flechtheim, on a consignment basis. Between 1927 and 1933, the painting was on consignment with Rudolf Probst, managing director of the Galerie Neue Kunst Fides. In 1933, however, Klee was forced out of his professorship at the Düsseldorf Academy, a post he had held since July 1931, after a Gestapo search of his home. Although he was not Jewish, Klee feared for the safety of his family, and emigrated to Switzerland on 23 December. He had previously asked all the galleries representing him to return those works they had on consignment, and entered a general agreement with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and the Galerie Simon in October. Blumen in Glasern was not among the works consigned to Kahnweiler; instead, Klee kept it to hang in his studio. It had previously caught the eye of Hanni Bürgi, a friend of Klee’s father and one of his earliest and most significant patrons, who wrote to Klee on 21 January 1933 ‘Eine Blume im Glas, it left me with an unforgettable impression. Might you still have it? That would be a reason for me visiting you in Düsseldorf in spring.’ Bürgi was a member of the so-called ‘Klee Circle’ of German and Swiss supporters of the artist, which also included Otto Ralfs; together, the group continued to support Klee financially by purchasing his work through the 1930s at a time when he would otherwise have struggled.