In ten frenzied illustrations, Paul Klee captured the energy, violence, and chaos of Curt Corrinth's Expressionist novella Potsdamer Platz. Set in a Berlin freed from traditional sexual and moral constraints, the book extols the liberating and transformative power of female sexuality. It follows the rise of Hans Termaden, a boy from the provinces, who persuades the city's prostitutes, and eventually all women, to fornicate freely. Klee's illustrations become increasingly orgiastic and towering as the book reaches its climax, in which Termaden ascends to heaven after ushering in a new order.
This is one of only two books Klee illustrated in his extraordinarily prolific career. Although skeptical of the book's literary merits, Klee accepted the commission in November 1918. Munich's Georg Müller Verlag first published Corrinth's text in 1919, and then issued a deluxe edition in 1920 with Klee's illustrations and a foreword by art historian Eckart von Sydow, who had recommended Klee to the publisher. The Museum's copy, which has an inscription from the author, seems to be a unique proof. It combines elements of the deluxe edition—a luxurious binding and lithographic reproductions—with the title page and text from the regular edition.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.