Dame mit Tomate, 1930

by Paul Klee


MEDIUM: Watercolour on paper laid down by the artist on board
DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 25.6 x 19.8 ins/ 65.0 x 50.3 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Klee’ (lower right); dated, numbered, and titled ‘1930 G.6 Dame mit Tomate’ (on mount)

Dame mit Tomate is likely a recollection of Klee’s visits to Italy in January 1929 and in the summer of 1930. Klee contrasts the bright red shape of the sun-ripened tomato against the darker attire of the woman, focusing on the fruit as a symbol of fertility and the living intensity of the timeless life-force inherited from ancient Mediterranean cultures.


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    Dame mit Tomate is likely a recollection of Klee’s visits to Italy in January 1929 and in the summer of 1930. Klee contrasts the bright red shape of the sun-ripened tomato against the darker attire of the woman, focusing on the fruit as a symbol of fertility and the living intensity of the timeless life-force inherited from ancient Mediterranean cultures. In a letter to his wife Lily from the coastal town Viareggio, dated 27 August 1930, Klee wrote: “The life here, utterly at the mercy of the power of the sea, the forest and the intense climate, is inexpressible. I haven’t any idea of how many days pass; it is more a tranquil standing still than a movement–that is an approximation of what the life here is like.”

    During this period, Klee again plunged into drawing with “barbaric fury” (ibid., p. 273). He developed what Grohmann has called his “melodic line” (ibid., p. 266), a continuous, unbroken and flowing drawn line, that begins at one point and moves about?the surface of the sheet guided?only by the artist’s impulse.?It creates an entirely closed?and unified image. Related?to the automatic drawing of?the Surrealists, the melodic line?may be used to render specific imagery, as in the present watercolor, or to create symbolic and abstract forms. The crossing of lines in loops and knots define component shapes in the image, which may be further reinforced and differentiated with the addition of color or, as in the area just below the lady’s left eye, a contrasting pointillist technique. While the interlacing line results in accidentally conceived planar elements, the overall effect is that of a flat graphic design filling the sheet.

    Alfred Flechtheim, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Paris, and London (by 1931);

    Alex Vömel, Dusseldorf;

    Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Paris;

    Curt Valentin (Buchholz Gallery and Valentin Gallery), Berlin and New York (1937-1938);

    Priscilla Gilbert, Neenah;

    Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Arts, New York

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    Swiss-born artist Paul Klee is renowned for his unique absorption of European Modernist movements, incorporating techniques from Cubism, Surrealism, and German Expressionism into his paintings and works on paper. Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee and grew up in a family of musicians, excelling in both music and the visual arts in his youth. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under the artist Franz von Stuck (German, 1863–1928). In 1911, Klee met Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944), Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916), and other Expressionist artists, and exhibited his work alongside the group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1913. During the same period, he was exposed to French Cubism and, during a significant trip to Tunisia in 1914, was enthralled by the light and color of the landscape, inspiring a lifelong passion for exploring color theory in his work.

    Klee began painting lively Abstract pieces following this trip, using blocks of color as the foundation for his landscapes, urban streets, and figurative scenes. He also experimented with texture and alternative materials, frequently painting on burlap and other rough surfaces. Klee’s subject matter ranges from satirical, whimsical, and childlike imagery, to the surreal and fantastic, to somber meditations on death and war. In 1919, he began teaching at the Bauhaus, the groundbreaking German school uniting fine arts, craft, and design, and exhibited at the Bauhaus and in Paris throughout the 1920s.

    In 1923, Klee and Kandinsky joined artists Lyonel Feininger (American/German, 1871–1956) and Alexej Jawlensky (Russian, 1864–1941) to create Die Blaue Vier (The Blue Four), which traveled to the United Stated in 1925. Klee continued to teach until the Bauhaus was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933, and he was forced to emigrate from Germany to Switzerland with his family. The same year he fell ill with the muscular disease scleroderma, and he spent the last several years of his life painting works with sobering themes, reflecting the increased presence of violent, totalitarian regimes in Germany and Klee’s own declining health. He continued to paint, using broad, thick brushstrokes because of his physical condition, and died in 1940. Klee produced more than 9,000 works during his lifetime, and is celebrated as one of the most unique and innovative of the early 20th century Modernists.

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