Setting aside rationality, we are not looking for the verisimilitude of forms. Instead, we let ourselves be swept away by the wonder of the enchanted world that the Swiss painter successfully recreated in one of his best works
Today let’s get carried away by the magic of a garden. Here, we are looking at “Magic Garden” painted by Klee in 1926. Paul Klee was born in Switzerland in 1879. He was a poet, violinist and when he painted he tried to evoke the enchantment of creation because he said that “art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible”. According to Klee, art is “the allegorical image of creation”, the artist’s task is not to represent reality as it appears to our eyes but to make visible the generating force that lies beneath.
The artist trained in Munich where in 1911 he joined the expressionist movement of the Blue Rider. The leader was Kandinskij, who wanted to bring a spiritual dimension to art. In 1914 he went to Tunisia, leading to a revelation. This man from the north was dazzled by the African light and discovers new colours. In fact, he writes “… Colour and I have become one. I am a painter”.
Starting 1921, he began teaching at the Bauhaus, remaining for almost 10 years, and then in Düsseldorf. However, the wind of history had turned the cards in Germany, Hitler comes to power and Klee in 1933 is removed from teaching without apparent reason.
In 1937 some of his works are included in the exhibition on degenerate art, organized by the Nazis, while the publicly owned paintings are removed from the museums. This was a painful moment. He returned to Switzerland with a bitter taste in his mouth, and without his beloved teaching, he died of scleroderma in 1940.
However, all this was in the distant future when he painted “Magic Garden”. These were the happy years of the Bauhaus. Klee loved teaching and the Bauhaus was a community rather than a school, and it was also here that he found his friend Kandinsky. In notes from this period, many references to nature appear, leading to an interior reading, in search of the magical relationship that links things, nature as well as structures created by man.
The painting presents an innovative technique. He likes to experiment, and here the support consists of a metal mesh filled with plaster. The painting presents a dimensionless background, a dense and full-bodied colour gives it the resemblance of the primordial magma from which, as in a dream, unstable and shallow buildings emerge in random order, isolated windows, ships floating in the void, decorated circular elements with lace, curtains, the moon and a laughing sun represented as if it were the work of a child. At the centre, a feminine figure emerges. Her heart-shaped face rests on a sort of cup and in a connection of disparate forms, ends in a vertical structure planted on a circle. These images are offered with simplified forms, disproportionate but expressive, much like the reality seen by a child.
The curtains in the upper right-hand corner resemble the curtains in the mosaics by Teodora in the San Vitale church, an echo of the journey he had made the same year to Ravenna. However, there is also a tribute to his friend Kandinskij in the blue circle, which alludes to the painting Some circles that the Russian artist had created that year. The circle often occurs in Kandinskij’s works. He considered it a cosmic element symbol of the reconciliation of opposites: the stable and the unstable.
Klee’s painting was bought by the American collector Peggy Guggenheim, however war broke out and Peggy, who was living in Paris, turned to the Louvre to save her collection. As she says in her autobiography, she was told that “… they were too modern and not worth saving”; among these were several Klee. Thankfully, the collection was saved, and when the Art of this Century gallery opened in New York in 1940, Klee’s paintings, including, Magic Garden, are exhibited in an interactive installation. This exhibit included a revolving wheel driven by visitors at the front passage to a photoelectric cell – the piece would baptize this area of the Coney Island gallery. Today the painting finds its home at the Guggenheim in Venice.
Anna Maria Calabretta