Paul Klee. Mask of Fear. 1932

Paul Klee

Mask of Fear


Oil on burlap
39 5/8 x 22 1/2" (100.4 x 57.1 cm)
Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund
Object number
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Painting and Sculpture
This work is not on view.
Paul Klee has 144 works online.
There are 2,244 paintings online.

This curious personage, with four small spindly legs supporting a visage of stunned eyes and a quizzical smirk or handlebar moustache, offers a satiric take on the work's grim title. Inspired by a Zuni war god sculpture that Klee saw at an ethnological museum, it was painted on the eve of Hitler's assumption of power in Germany, a year after Klee left the Bauhaus for a professorship at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The two sets of legs suggest that two figures might be supporting and hiding behind this monumental carnival-style mask, an arrangement related to Klee's metaphorical statement, "The mask represents art, and behind it hides man."

Gallery label from 2006

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
On consignment from the artist to Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin, 1932 [1]; to Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris, by 1934 [2]; Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York [3]; sold to Allan (1906-1975) and Beatrice Roos, New York and San Francisco, by 1940 [4]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978 (Nelson A. Rockefeller Fund).
[1] Paul-Klee-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern, eds. Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné. Bern: Benteli and New York: Thames and Hudson, vol. 6 (2002), no. 5982. Included in the exhibition Lebendige deutsche Kunst, organized by Paul Cassirer and Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin, December 10, 1932-mid-January, 1933 (no. 55: Maske Furcht).
[2] Ibid. Included in the exhibition Paul Klee, Galerie Simon, Paris, June 12-25, 1934 (no. 59). Also included in The International Surrealist Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, June 11 - July 4, 1936 (no. 148) and Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, December 7, 1936-January 17, 1937 (no. 244). Lender: Galerie Simon, Paris.
[3] Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné, vol. 6 (2002), no. 5982.
[4] Paul Klee, Buchholz Galleries-Willard Gallery, New York, October 9-November 2, 1940 (no. 73): "Collection: Mr. Allan Roos, New York."

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