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Klee, Paul (1879 – 1940)

‘Would not art be better off without the State?’

A fine four-page autograph letter signed, ‘Klee’, 9th December 1933. Just days before fleeing Nazi Germany for Switzerland, Klee writes to art historian Alois Schardt. Schardt had, the previous month, been dismissed from his post as curator of the new department of the Berlin National Gallery due to his inclusion of impressionist works that were not considered sufficiently aryan.

Klee opens with the remark, ‘Now, with your departure, the best pillar shifts from its position and with it goes the last hope. One would have to ask: what will the art that is so hotly sponsored by the state look like? Would not art be better off without the state?’ The artist goes on to list a good many of his paintings (including Phantastische Flora and Vorspiel zu Golgatha), wanting to know of their whereabouts. He concludes, ‘Please write to me pretty soon; I’m getting ready to leave.’

In very fine condition, with punch-holes away from text. Klee’s last days in Germany were characterised by attacks from the Nazi press labelling him a degenerate who was producing art that was dangerous for society. Despite the pressures, he produced five hundred paintings in 1933, and reached the heights of his talents.

Together with three letters written by Klee’s wife, Lily Klee, including a heartfelt letter to Schardt written on 10th December 1933 (a day after her husband’s), in which she writes, in part, ‘Why has an artist like Klee, a man of such strong creative force, of such pure character and convictions, of such creative teaching work fallen into total disgrace in the new Germany? Why has he been deleted from all public work, he, the artist who, in his visionary views and his soul steeped in music, is the strongest representative of German-ness? He, who stood and stands entirely outside of the political sphere; who has made it solely through his œuvre and his tireless work, in the purest fashion and without ever compromising or taking advantage of a connection. What influence was at work to expel one of the best German personalities from the ranks of creative minds? And wasn’t there anybody who enlightened those in leading positions? Even his international reputation has been turned into an accusation… His contract, good yet for years, has been cancelled. He is forbidden to teach and to have exhibitions… Klee himself stands above all these goings-on; it is as if he were on a different plain where things cannot reach him; because he keeps working to spite all enemy forces.’

An extraordinary grouping.