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City Hammamet in Tunisia

Painting, 1914

Description of the artwork «City Hammamet in Tunisia»

In April 1914, Paul Klee went on a trip to Tunisia. He took his son Felix to his parents in Bern, met a friend Louis Muaye, sold a few paintings to pay the way - and both went to Marseille, where the third participant of the future African expedition was waiting for them Augustus Macke. An acquaintance of Muaye, a former Swiss, lived in Tunisia and was ready to receive three artists in his villa. The idea of going three together was the main one: to write side by side, to share impressions and thoughts, to share finds.

For Klee, this 12-day trip was one of the most important events in life. Here 35-year-old Klee became an artist.

Prior to the African journey, Paul Klee professionally played the violin, looked after his son, experimented with drawing techniques. His works were black and white. He enthusiastically and enthusiastically reads theoretical work.Rober delaunay about the primacy of color in the work of the artist, but he rarely takes on paints, sincerely considers himself primarily a painter. Klee is much more confident experimenting with ink, pencil, etchings and drawing an image on glass.

Three days Klee with friends draws watercolors in the Arab neighborhoods and in the port of Tunisia. Then travels by car and, finally, go by train to Hammamet, and then - to Kairouan. Here, at the gates of the holy Muslim city, Klee experiences insight. The diary record of this day became a textbook in conversations about the work of Klee: “The color has captured me, now I don’t have to chase it. It struck me at a happy moment: I and the color are one. I am an artist".

Here, in Tunisia, Klei opens up a new pictorial technique: he folds the image of African landscapes from colored rectangles, only occasionally adding small details over this patchwork field. In some places the conventional outline of the domes of the mosque, somewhere bundles of grass or stonework, the silhouette of a tree or window - only these elements do not allow us to name the work of Klee as a pure abstraction. The artist will never cross this line - even going to color experiments and meditations, even focusing on technical games, gluing fabric with paper, scratching an image, stitching pieces of canvas, he never loses touch with reality. For Klee, it is always important to scatter the bread crumbs of this world, going to the unknown to give imaginary or speculative distant worlds. It is important to keep in touch with reality and be able to return to earth at any time.

Klee loves the land. In any further work, he informs the viewer about figurative content in various ways: either through the name of the picture, now by visual means, or even by a real plot message. No matter how close Klee approached abstraction, he never allowed himself to step into this area. He is bored there.

From an African trip, Klee will bring not so many finished works - 35 watercolors and 13 drawings. But the blinding light, the multicolor clarity of the landscapes, the polyphonic music of the markets and squares, the rhythmic architecture will become for him an endless fuel, the main pictorial discovery.

Paul Klee returned from Tunis two days earlier than his fellow travelers. He explained this decision simply: the impressions overwhelmed him, intoxicated, it was no longer necessary, it was no longer to contain.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Style of art: Abstractionism, Expressionism

Date of creation: 1914

Artwork in selections: 8 selections

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