Paul Klee. Around the Fish. 1926

Paul Klee

Around the Fish

1926

Medium
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard
Dimensions
18 3/8 x 25 1/8" (46.7 x 63.8 cm)
Credit
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund
Object number
271.1939
Copyright
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 29 other works online.
Paul Klee has 144 works online.
There are 2,242 paintings online.

A garnished platter of fish is surrounded by a constellation of seemingly disparate elements—a cross, full and crescent moons, an exclamation point, a forked red flag—all hovering against a dark abyss. Some of Klee's iconography grew out of his teaching; the arrow, which he initially used as a teaching tool to indicate force and emotion for his students at the Bauhaus, here points confrontationally towards a stylized head, possibly alluding to human consciousness. Although they are often enigmatic, Klee believed his personal hieroglyphs and figurative elements had wider connotations: "The object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge of its inner being, through the knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests."

Gallery label from 2006

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, 1926 [1]; removed as "degenerate art" by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, 1937 [2]; on consignment to Karl Buchholz, Berlin, 1939; to Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York, 1939; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 13, 1939 (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund) [3].
[1] Paul-Klee-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern, eds. Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné. Bern: Benteli and New York: Thames and Hudson, vol. 4 (2000), no. 4075. Acquired from the exhibition Internationale Kunstausstellung, Städtischer Ausstellungspalast Dresden, Juni-September, 1926 (no. 528). Before the painting was removed from the collection in 1937, it was included as "degenerate art" in the exhibition Entartete Kunst at the Neues Rathaus, Dresden, September 23, 1933-October 18, 1933; at the Städtische Galerie, Nürnberg, September 7, 1935-September 21, 1935; and at the Haus der Kunst, Dortmund, November 11, 1935-December 8, 1935 (see Beschlagnahmeinventar "Entartete Kunst", "Degenerate Art" Research Center, FU Berlin).
[2] EK no. 15982: Um den Fisch. Included in the exhibition Entartete Kunst, Hofgarten-Arkaden, Munich, July 19-November 30, 1937 and other venues (Berlin, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Salzburg).
[3] Included in the exhibition Art in Our Time, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 10- September 30, 1939 (no. 182).

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