Paul Klee

Walpurgis Night


Not on display

Paul Klee 1879–1940
Original title
Gouache on fabric on plywood
Support: 508 × 470 mm
frame: 725 × 682 × 72 mm
Purchased 1964

Display caption

During the rise of the Nazi regime in the Thirties, Klee became a target of their campaign against ‘degenerate art’. In 1933 Klee was stripped of his teaching post at the Bauhaus and fled to Switzerland where he fell ill, produced far fewer paintings, and died in 1940. More than a hundred of his works were confiscated from German museums and collections. Walpurgis Night is the night that marks the transition from winter to spring, falling on the eve of the first of May. In folk tradition, witches would gather on the Brocken, the highest of the Harz Mountains, to perform rituals to ward off evil. According to his son Felix, such legends exerted a particularly strong influence on Klee’s work.

Gallery label, August 2011

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Catalogue entry

Paul Klee 1879-1940

T00669 Walpurgis Night 1935

Inscribed 'Klee' b.l. and '1935 121 QU 1 Walpurgisnacht' on the back
Gouache on cloth mounted on plywood, 20 x 18 1/2 (51 x 47)
Purchased from the Galerie Beyeler (Grant-in-Aid) 1964
Prov: Swiss private collector; with Berggruen, Paris; with World House Galleries, New York, 1959; Finarte sale, Milan, 21-23 November 1962, lot 119, repr. in colour; bt. Galerie Beyeler, Basle
Exh: Paul Klee, World House Galleries, New York, March-April 1960 (36, repr.); Klee, Galerie Beyeler, Basle, March-April 1963 (50)

This work was executed the year Klee first fell seriously ill. Asked whether this illness could have had any bearing on its haunted character, his son Felix Klee replied: 'Klee's illness first began at the end of 1935 as a case of ordinary measles. I consider it unlikely that it is in any way related to this picture. The ghostly scenes on the Brocken - from Goethe's Faust - often exerted a fascination on my father. Also at Easter 1923 we travelled from Wernigerode through the Harz Mountains to Braunschweig. The legendary traditions of this region and my father's assimilation of them are things I shall never forget. These I take to be the true source of this work!' (letter of 5 May 1975).

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, p.389, reproduced p.389


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