Paul Klee

A Young Lady’s Adventure

1922

Original title
Abenteuer eines Fräuleins
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 625 x 480 mm
frame: 686 x 510 x 20 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1946
Reference
N05659

Display caption

Commentators have differed in their interpretation of this watercolour. The German critic Will Grohmann, for example, saw the figure as a 'fashionable lady, who is spite of her striking elegance is more or less helpless in face of the oppressive spirits'. In the Bauhaus where Klee taught in this period the work was known, he said, as 'The English Miss'. Others emphasise the erotic connotations of the imagery, and Klee's use of arrows as phallic symbols. For Christain Geelhaar the 'young lady's adventure' referred to in the title is sexual in nature.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Paul Klee 1879-1940

N05659 A Young Lady's Adventure 1922

Inscribed 'Klee' b.l.; also '1922/152' on mount b.l. and 'Abenteuer eines Fräuleins' b.r.
Watercolour on paper, 17 1/4 x 12 5/8 (43.5 x 32)
Purchased from Frau Lily Klee (Knapping Fund) 1946
Exh: Lent by the artist to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Weimar, 1923-30; Paul Klee 1879-1940, National Gallery, London, December 1945-January 1946 (61); Paul Klee 1879-1940, Arts Council touring exhibition, 1946 (21, repr.)
Lit: Christian Geelhaar, Paul Klee and the Bauhaus (Bath 1973), p.54, repr. pl.23 in colour
Repr: Cahiers d'Art, 1945-6, p.33; Carola Giedion-Welcker, Paul Klee (London 1952), p.46; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), p.153 in colour

Will Grohmann commented on this work (letter of 14 June 1953): 'Klee had a very distant relation to women and saw in general their comic side. This mannequin-like female figure must represent a fashionable lady, who in spite of her striking elegance is more or less helpless in face of the oppressive spirits. The evil bird takes hold of her, while the arrow threatens to attack. It is probably also a "Temptation". It is amusing to recall that this watercolour was known at the Bauhaus as "The English Miss".'

Christian Geelhaar (loc. cit.), on the other hand, has tended to emphasise its erotic aspects, and has drawn attention to the significance of the arrow in various of Klee's works as a phallic symbol. 'Formally speaking this watercolour belongs to the group of colour gradations: into the olive-green grades are set red accents and these explain the nature of the maidenly adventure: in the area of tension between the red sex of the small preying animal below on the left and the young girl's lap a red shaft of lightning is discharged.'

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.387-8, reproduced p.387

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