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Refuge, 1930

Paul Klee

Swiss, 1879-1940
Oil, tempera and watercolor on plaster grounded gauze mounted on cardboard
21-1/2 x 13-3/4 in. (54.6 x 34.9 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
© Norton Simon Museum

Not on view

Although known for its wit and buoyancy, Klee's work shows a wide and complex range of emotions. Here a "figure," consisting of a head with an arm and a leg, is frozen in space, swimming through an opaque and heavy atmosphere. An amorphous black shape is floating on the left; is this the reason for the figure's terrified expression? Overhead hovers a form that may be a mountain or a tent, either the sought haven that is the refuge or the threat from which the figure flees. In contrast to the scene's ominous overtones, the dominant colors are soft pinks, mauves, and gray-blues; the principal components are defined with a delicate brush-stroked hatching in brown watercolor, which belies the terrified (or terrifying) expression of the main figure.

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