In 1947, The Museum of Modern Art published a deluxe portfolio of The Prints of Paul Klee, a luxurious green ribbon-bound box encasing 40 individual prints of Paul Klee’s etchings and lithographs, and a booklet by James Thrall Soby, then Chairman of the Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture. This fall, MoMA is reissuing a limited-edition facsimile of The Prints of Paul Klee for the first time since it’s original publication.
Paul Klee was an extraordinary draftsman, printmaker, teacher, and theoretician, and his prints demonstrate—perhaps more fully than his work in any other medium—his remarkable evolution from a traditionalist to one of the most daring innovators of modern art. The 40 works in the portfolio, selected by Soby to represent the development of Klee’s print oeuvre, were made between 1903 and 1931, spanning the artist’s entire printmaking career. While many of the prints in the selection are well known and celebrated examples of Klee’s work, more than a third of the prints are very rare, with only a few known examples. Nearly 70 years after the first edition of the publication, it is still a revelatory experience to browse through the loose plates.
Limited to just 2,000 individually numbered copies, the reissue includes 40 color and black-and-white prints, each on a separate sheet of textured cardstock; Soby’s original essay in a hand-stitched booklet; and a new text by Christophe Cherix, MoMA’s Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints, that examines the publication’s lasting legacy. As Cherix notes in his introduction, “The Prints of Paul Klee remains a rare model of excellence, in terms of the superb quality of both its reproductions and scholarship in what was then a burgeoning field…. Well ahead of the digital age, this volume empowers each and every one of us to curate our very own exhibition of one of the great masters of the twentieth century.”