Paul Klee. Engel

Early Engels

  • Paul Klee  Weihnachtsbaum mit Christkind u. Eisenbahn, 1884
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  • Paul Klee  Ein Engel überreicht das Gewünschte, 1913
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Four drawings survive which Paul Klee drew at the approximate age of five. Parodies of Christian iconography can be found in the first portrayal s of angels in Klee's mature work. They make ironic reference to the typology of the angel of the Annunciation and the classical representation of the angel as a divine messenger, as reflected in titles such as An angel hands over the object of desire, Celestial express messenger or A genius serves a small breakfast (after 1915/29).

Guardian Angels, Drunken Angels

  • Paul Klee trinkender Engel 1930
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  • Paul Klee in Engelshut 1931
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  • Paul Klee bestandenes Abenteuer 1931
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Paul Klee didn't paint any angels while teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau. They only reappear at the end of his time there, initially as a Drinking angel. In a series of six drawings from 1931 Klee varies the theme of the guardian angel. The Angel's care series shows three linked figures in many-layered networks of lines and colour.

In the drawing created a little later, Adventure undergone, the guardian angel appears in abstract form and, hovering above, administers to a figure lying on the ground.
Klee takes up this theme again eight years later in Under grand protection: with his mighty angel he refers to the Christian iconography of the Virgin of Mercy, beneath whose robe the needy find refuge.

Between Good and Evil

  • Paul Klee, Sturz, 1933, 46 (M 6), Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
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  • Paul Klee Angelus militans 1939
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  • Paul Klee angelus dubiosus 1939
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In 1933, the year of the National Socialist seizure of power, the angels of Paul Klee reveal a dark side. In the brush drawing Fall a hideous winged being appears to plummet towards the viewer.

Klee is also interested in the fallen angel in the following years. His artistic mingling of good and evil is expressed in a continual transformation of lines and forms: In works such as Shots on high, Attack or Angelus militans winged beings are bound up in scenes of aggression; in watercolours such as Angelus dubiosus and Demonry evil is hidden behind wings and hands.

Angels in the Making I

  • Paul Klee Engel im Werden 1934
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  • Paul Klee unfertiger Engel 1939
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  • Paul Klee mehr Vogel 1939
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Characteristic of Paul Klee's angels is the processual manner of their creation. This can be seen in the only abstract angel composition, the oil painting Angel in the making: a red cross on a blue background marks the angel's place of origin, while its form is indicated by a circle and upwardly swinging lines and forms. This abstract work anticipates the subject matter of the angel pictures that Klee began four years later: in the drawing Unfinished angel, for example, the form of the winged being has still to emerge.

This formation process is also revealed in groups of drawings that Klee entered into his catalogue of works with consecutive numbers. Sometimes the title evokes an angelic association, sometimes the connection is made through the motif itself, as in works such as Fertilized, Creature or More bird.

Earthly Angels

  • Paul Klee altkluger Engel 1939
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  • Paul Klee, vergesslicher Engel, 1939, 880 (VV 20), Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
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  • Paul Klee (1879-1940) Engel, noch weiblich, 1939 1016 Kreide auf Grundierung auf Papier auf Karton, 41,7 x 29,4 cm © Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
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The angels of the last two years of Paul Klee's life are beings of an intermediate world, to which the artist – burdened by illness – felt he belonged. With their little weaknesses and shortcomings they appear more earthly than metaphysical, even human. They often have faces, arms and legs, and they are also 'still ugly' or 'precocious', seeming to be 'musing', 'forgetful' or 'despairing'.

Without having any real religious significance, Klee's angels can refer to Christian iconography, but equally to myths, literary models or popular theatre. At times they even mutate into a Christian ghost. They aren't always sexless like the angels of the Christian canon, but sometimes mischievously work their charms – as in Angel, still female or Coquette angel with curls.

Lost Angels

  • Paul Klee Ohne Titel (Letztes Stilleben), 1940
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  • Paul Klee Engel, noch hässlich 1940
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  • Paul Klee Ohne Titel (Todesengel), um 1940
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Towards the end of 1939, and during the final year of his life in 1940, Paul Klee intensified his depictions of angels both materially and thematically: he not only added several intensely colourful watercolours and paintings to his tender line drawings, and in the oil painting Last still life reflected his drawing Angel, still ugly in a new way; his late angels also became impressive testimony to an involvement with existential questions. They are concerned with doubt and confidence, mortality and transcendence.

Angels of History

  • Paul Klee Angelus novus, 1920
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Paul Klee's most famous portrayal of an angel is the oiltransfer drawing Angelus novus. For the philosopher Walter Benjamin, who purchased the work in 1921 and even after 1933, despite his flight from Germany and exile, held on to it for many years, this 'new' or 'young' angel became a projection surface for many-faceted reflections. These ended up in the now famous interpretation in his text 'On the Concept of History' (1940). In it the Angelus novus is interpreted as the 'Angel of History', which gave Klee's drawing the status of a 'leftwing icon'.

The Angelus novus was also the starting point for musical compositions. Some of them can be heard in the exhibition.

Angels from History

  • Cherubino Alberti (1553-1615) (nach Pellegrino Tibaldi) Der Erzengel Raphael führt Tobias, 1575 © Hamburger Kunsthalle /bpk Photo: Christoph Irrgang
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  • Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810) Der Kleine Morgen, 1808  Öl auf Leinwand, 109 x 85,5 cm © Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk Photo: Elke Walford
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The motif of the angel exists in different cultures, and is linked to very different interpretations. Our cultural sphere echoes Persian, Egyptian, Graeco-Roman and Jewish beliefs in winged beings, but the Christian visualtradition of the angel primarily draws on the Old and New Testaments and non-canonical writings. Angels have always had a great significance in Christianity: around forty works from the collection of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, images from six centuries and various countries, exemplify this tradition here.

Angelswere seen as intermediaries between God and human beings, between heaven andearth, as messengers from God and enunciators of His will. They appear asguards and protective figures, as consolers and guides of thesoul after death, but also as avengers, judges and executors of the Last Judgement.

The angels of Paul Klee – a non-believing Protestant – have roots in these varied ideal andvisual traditions, but they speak a language of their own. Klee quotes the messenger and protector, the militant, fallen or erotic angel, but he is not interested in hierarchies or heavenly hosts, for example; he rarely draws or paints more than one winged being. Deeply isolated, armed with irony and the will to live, Klee's angels stand in the world – more related to modern people, thrown back on themselves, than to an almighty God.

Angels in the Making II

  • Kinderzeichnung
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  • Kinderzeichnung
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  • Kinderzeichnung
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Paul Klee valued children's drawings highly, even taking his earliest drawings into hiscatalogue of works. In these cabinets we show drawings by children, young people and adults which were created within the context of this exhibition, in courses and seminars or here in this space – and you are also warmly invited to participate. This presentation of work will be supplemented and continually changed over the coming weeks.


  

Angels Online Gallery in the making

The works shown here are results for Klee exhibition in courses, Workshops and on site.

Credits


  • 1 Paul Klee
    Weihnachtsbaum mit Christkind u. Eisenbahn, 1884,
    3 und Weihnachtsbaum Christkind u Uhr, 1884, 4,
    Bleistift und Kreide auf Papier auf Karton, zweiteilig
    24 x 32 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 2 Paul Klee
    Ein Engel überreicht das Gewünschte, 1913, 138
    Feder auf Papier auf Karton
    12,8 x 19,8 cm
    Privatbesitz
  • 3 Paul Klee
    trinkender Engel, 1930, 239
    Aquarell und Kleisterfarbe auf Papier auf Karton
    48,5 x 30,4 cm
    Privatsammlung, Bern
  • 4 Paul Klee
    in Engelshut, 1931, 55
    Feder auf Papier auf Karton
    42,1 x 49,1 cm
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Estate
    of Karl Nierendorf, By purchase 48.1172.486
  • 5 Paul Klee
    bestandenes Abenteuer, 1931, 136
    Feder und Pinsel auf Papier auf Karton
    42/42,2 x 51,5 cm
    Privatsammlung, Bern
  • 6 Paul Klee
    Sturz, 1933 46
    Pinsel auf Papier auf Karton,
    31,3/31,6 x 47,5 cm
    © Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 7 Paul Klee
    Angelus militans, 1939, 1028
    Kreide auf Papier auf Karton
    44,3 x 29,9 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 8 Paul Klee
    angelus dubiosus, 1939, 930
    Aquarell auf Papier auf Karton
    29,5 x 21 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 9 Paul Klee
    Engel im Werden, 1934, 204
    Ölfarbe auf Grundierung auf Leinwand auf Holz;
    rekonstruierter Rahmen
    51 x 51 cm
    Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul
    Klee, Bern
  • 10 Paul Klee
    unfertiger Engel, 1939, 841
    Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton
    29,5 x 21 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 11 Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    mehr Vogel, 1939 939
    Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton,
    21 x 29,5 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 12 Paul Klee
    altkluger Engel, 1939, 873
    Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton
    29,5 x 21 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 13 Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    vergesslicher Engel, 1939 880
    Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton,
    29, 5 x 21 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 14 Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    Engel, noch weiblich, 1939 1016
    Kreide auf Grundierung auf Papier
    auf Karton, 41,7 x 29,4 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 15 Paul Klee (1879-1940)
    Ohne Titel (Letztes Stilleben), 1940
    Werknummer nicht vorhanden
    Ölfarbe auf Leinwand,
    100 x 80,5 cm
    Schenkung Livia Klee
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 16 Paul Klee
    Engel, noch hässlich, 1940, 26
    Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton
    29,6 x 20,9 cm
    Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern
  • 17 Paul Klee
    Ohne Titel (Todesengel), um 1940
    Ölfarbe auf Leinwand
    51 x 66,4 cm
    Privatbesitz Schweiz, Depositum im Zentrum Paul
    Klee, Bern
  • 18 Paul Klee
    Angelusnovus, 1920, 32
    The IsraelMuseum, Jerusalem, Schenkung John und Paul Herring, Jo Carole und RonaldLauder, Fania und Gershom Scholem
  • 19 Cherubino Alberti (1553-1615)
    (nach Pellegrino Tibaldi)
    Der Erzengel Raphael führt Tobias, 1575
    Kuperstich, 317 x 212 mm
    © Hamburger Kunsthalle /bpk
    Photo: Christoph Irrgang
  • 20 Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810)
    Der Kleine Morgen, 1808
    Öl auf Leinwand, 109 x 85,5 cm
    © Hamburger Kunsthalle/bpk
    Photo: Elke Walford