Blüten der Nacht

Flowers of the Night

Artist Paul Klee


Accession year 1988

Pastel on burlap, mounted on cardboard, 43 x 33,5 cm

Signed top left: “Klee”; inscribed on cardboard bottom centre: “1938 T 13” / below: “Blüten der Nacht”

Collection Fondazione Francesco Federico Cerruti per l’Arte

Long-term loan Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Turin

Inv. no. CC.5.P. KLE.1938.A120

Provenance: Lenars, Paris; Lady Nika Hulton, London (1955-68); Kurt Delbanco, London-New York; Galerie Beyeler, Basel (-1986); Galerie Coray, Lugano (1986-); Courtesy Galleria Pieter Coray, Montagnola (Switzerland); Sotheby’s, London, Impressionist and Modern Paintings and Sculpture (Part II), 30 November 1988 (lot 193).

Exhibitions: London-York-Chicago 1955-56 (no. 38); Wuppertal-Rotterdam-Munich-Dortmund 1964-65 (no. 106); Zurich 1967-68 (no. 106); Basel 1973 (pp. 7-12, no. 71, fig.); Paris 1974 (no. 58); Munich 1975 (n. 44); Saint-Paul-de-Vence 1977 (n. 140, fig.); Tokyo 1980 (np. , fig.); Madrid-Barcelona 1981 (no. 79); Rivoli-Turin 2017 (pp. 137 ill., 315).

Bibliography: Munich 1992, pp. 35-41; Catalogue raisonné 1998-2004, vol. VII, no. 7515, fig.; Friedewald 2011, p. 168, fig.

Klee was inspired by an idea of German Romanticism: that night is the time in which life passes from this world to the next, and that is when a mysterious flower blooms.

During a convalescence from his progressive sclerodermy at a health resort in Ascona in the autumn of 1937, Paul Klee was able to find new creative impulses in his artistic seclusion and often worked using pastels, an easyto-handle painting material suitable for travelling. In the following year he also increasingly created pastel works in his studio. The present work is counted among these.

The entire composition is divided into small areas through gentle curves. This results in a composition of irregularly shaped large and small coloured areas like puzzle pieces, each painted in red, light blue, blue, moss green, violet, dark brown, dark green, and yellow green. In the work two forces strive to balance each other, a downward force associated with gravity and an upward force associated with growth. At the upper edge of the picture there is a horizontally extended, long, curved red field of colour, which alludes to a sunset. It touches the tongue-shaped yellow-green field of colour, which is located on a downward pointed pink quadrangle whose position near the centre of the picture emphasises the downward force. A dark brown tube with two dilations extends along the lower right edge of the pink quadrangle. From its lower dilatation a double light blue circle emerges like a droplet of morning dew, and its lower edge touches a semi-circle in the same colour as the tongue at the bottom of the work.

The entire movement of these elements: tongue, pink quadrangle, tube and droplet are directed downwards. On the other hand, the dark brown tube is flanked by two double circles which lift it upwards. The left double circle in yellow-green with olive-green centre is supported by a dark green trumpetlike form, and the right double circle in dark green with black centre is supported by a light blue trumpet-like form. The ascending double circles could be interpreted as abstract flowers growing against gravity. The duality of the dark centre and the light flower edges gives the picture rhythmic accents. The inclusion of dropletlike forms (the morning dew) in the composition of the picture depicts the juices of life, which stimulate the mysterious development of plants.

In 1938 Klee also created a work, Nacht-Blüte (Night Flower, 1938), which has a similar title. The influence of German Romanticism can be seen in both the motif and the way this work is portrayed. Radiating from the moon, a blue glowing mystical night reigns in the pictorial space, in which a flower blossoms in full bloom. A window cross on the right edge of the picture functions as a metaphor for the connection between the real outside world and the inner world of the artist. From this comparison, it can be concluded that Klee was inspired by an idea of German Romanticism: that night is the time in which life passes from this world to the next, and that is when a mysterious flower blooms.

Blüten der Nacht was painted on jute without a primer, so the fragile pastel pigments have already fallen off in some places and the texture of the fragile fabric has thus become visible. This process of decay corresponds to the becoming and passing of life, a subject Klee increasingly occupied himself with towards the end of his life.

[Marie Kakinuma]

Purchased by Francesco Federico Cerruti in 1988, this was the second work by Klee to enter the collection [Ed.].