Paul Klee. Virgin in the Tree (Jungfrau im Baum) from the series Inventions (Inventionen). 1903

Paul Klee Virgin in the Tree (Jungfrau im Baum) from the series Inventions (Inventionen) 1903

  • Not on view

Humor, lyricism, and intimacy are some of the qualities that define the imaginative body of work created by Paul Klee. In addition to paintings, Klee made more than one hundred prints, most of which were etchings and lithographs. His interest in printmaking began in his mid-twenties when he returned to his hometown of Bern after studying art at the Munich Academy and in Italy. Determined to make his first independent artistic statement, Klee found that etching provided the structure he needed at a moment when he was discouraged by his unsuccessful efforts at painting.

Between 1903 and 1905 Klee made a series of twelve etchings he called Inventions, which he considered his first significant body of work. Rebelling against the classical training he had received at art school, he radically distorted the anatomy of the female nude in this series. By parodying the typically allegorical treatment of women's bodies, he expressed his alienation from the bourgeois conservatism of mainstream art and his desire to retreat into his imagination. In this example, the woman, draped over a gnarled tree and grotesquely misshapen, is portrayed as the antithesis of a romantic, idealized nude.

This early series of etchings established Klee as an artist and launched his career. Although he later devoted himself to painting, he continued to make prints in which he incorporated ideas from Cubism and the art of children and of the mentally ill. A trip to Tunisia in 1914 awakened a passion for color, which he incorporated in his paintings and prints. It was at the Bauhaus, the famed German school of modern design, where he was invited to teach in 1920, that he developed his more familiar abstract geometric style, utilizing signs and symbols in simplified yet whimsical compositions such as Queen of Hearts.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Harper Montgomery and Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 50.
Medium
Etching
Dimensions
plate: 9 5/16 x 11 11/16" (23.7 x 29.7 cm); sheet: 12 1/2 x 16 3/8" (31.7 x 41.6 cm)
Publisher
Paul Klee, Bern
Printer
Max Girardet, Bern
Edition
approx. 60
Credit
Purchase
Object number
335.1941
Copyright
© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Department
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

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Provenance Research Project

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

Hans Goltz, Munich; Staatliche graphische Sammlungen, Munich, 1920 [1]; removed as “degenerate art” by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, 1937 [2]; on consignment to Karl Buchholz, Berlin; to Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1941.
[1] Stamp "K. B. GRAPHISCHE SAMMLUNG" on verso, center sheet, brown ink. Inventory no. 160.
[2] EK no. 15653: Jungfrau im Baum

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