Paul Klee. Portrait of an Equilibrist. 1927

Paul Klee

Portrait of an Equilibrist


Oil and collage on cardboard over wood with painted plaster border
24 7/8 x 15 3/4" (63.2 x 40 cm)
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim 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.

Here Klee has portrayed an artist as tightrope walker—an elongated stick figure with bent knee and outstretched arms. The figure strikes a precarious balance by adjusting the round balls or weights it holds. This set of lines and shapes, including the steps and yellow platform, can also be read as a face—the balls form eyes and the bent leg becomes a nose. Though painted, this linear composition embodies Klee's definition of drawing: "A line going for a walk."

Gallery label from 2006

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 Rudolf Probst, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, Dresden, 1927 [1]; on consignment from the artist to Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin, February 1928 [2]; [Erich Raemisch, Krefeld, 1929] [3]; on loan to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1930 [4]; on consignment from the artist to Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (Galerie Simon), Paris, by 1934 [5]; to Mayor Gallery, London, by 1934 [6]; sold to Roland Penrose (1900-1984), London/Muddles Green, May 1935 [7]; sold to G. David Thompson (1899-1965), Pittsburgh [8]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art through Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, March 23-24, 1966 (Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund) [9].

[1] Paul-Klee-Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern, eds. Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné. Bern: Benteli and New York: Thames and Hudson, vol. 5 (2001), no. 4226.
[2] Ibid. See Stefan Frey and Wolfgang Kersten, "Paul Klees geschäftliche Verbindung zur Galerie Alfred Flechtheim," Alfred Flechtheim: Sammler. Kunsthändler. Verleger, ed. by Hans Albert Peters, exh. cat. Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, 1987, p. 79. Included in the following exhibitions: Paul Klee, Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin, March 18-Easter 1928, no. 23 (Artistenbildnis); Paul Klee, Galerie Flechtheim, Berlin, October 20-November 15, 1929 (no. 80); Paul Klee, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf in cooperation with Galerie Flechtheim, June 14-July 6, 1931 (no. 45).
[3] Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné, vol. 5 (2001), no. 4226.
[4] Included in the exhibition Paul Klee, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 13-April 2, 1930 (no. 24). The catalogue notes on p. 13: "Unless otherwise indicated the paintings belong to the artist and are exhibited by arrangement with his representatives [Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Berlin and J.B. Neumann, New York]."
[5] Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné, vol. 5 (2001), no. 4226.
[6] Label on verso with Mayor gallery number "MG 1613." Included in the exhibitions 20th Century Classics, The Mayor Gallery, London, February-March 1934 (Paul Klee, Portrait d'artiste); Paul Klee, The Mayor Gallery London, June 1935.
[7] Paul Klee: catalogue raisonné, vol. 5 (2001), no. 4226. On loan from Penrose to the exhibition Paul Klee: 1879-1940, National Gallery, London, December 1945-February 1946 (no. 132).
[8] Date of acquisition unknown.
[9] The Collection of Twentieth Century Paintings and Sculptures Formed by the Late G. David Thompson of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, March 23-24, 1966 (no. 40).

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