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 2,309 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

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
1932, Paul Klee, Düsseldorf.
1932 - 1933, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf/Berlin, acquired on consignment from the artist.
1933 - at least January 1937, Galerie Simon (Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler), Paris, acquired on consignment from the artist.
[Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York]
By 1940 - 1977, Allan (1906-1975) and Beatrice Roos, New York and San Francisco.
1978, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchased from a beneficiary of the Estate of Beatrice Roos.

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