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Paul Klee

Desert Village

watercolour on paste-primed paper on cardboard
1930
30 x 46,4 cm / 11 7/8 x 18 1/4 in
signed lower right, dated and inscribed 'VI' lower left, titled lower right on the original cardboard

In 1928 Klee's wish to see Egypt came true. The Klee-Society, founded by the art collector Otto Ralfs in 1925 to support the artist, was financing the journey. Klee left in mid-December 1928 and returned in mid-January 1929. On December 25, 1928, he wrote to his wife from Cairo: „Individually, in my recollection a Tunisian city is more pure and surely the mosques of Kairouan are incomparable (they’re very baroque here).” But the further south he went, the more he liked it. Klee did not take any painting material, for he believed that the impressions should not be conveyed directly, but indirectly, via a detour through the soul of the artist. Thus he only made a few sketches; the final works were created in the studio after his return. The scene of “Desert Village” is dominated by shades of ochre and dark brown. Dark clouds are hanging in the sky; dynamic brushstrokes indicate a strong wind, maybe even a sand storm. Light rectangles are „engraved“ into the work like hieroglyphs into the wall of a temple. Two tiny figures are seen in the foreground with a dog, they are dwarfed by the majestic landscape and the ancient architecture. The journey to Egypt had a profound impact on Klee’s work, not just in the years immediately following it, but right until 1940.

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