Works on Paper

Bärtiger Mann (Bearded Man), 1924
Paul Klee (Switzerland, 1879–1940)
Image: 8 3/4 x 6 inches
University of Illinois Purchase 1950-11-1

Paul Klee is especially known for his reduction of people and things to evocate hieroglyphics. During the 1920s and early '30s, however, perhaps under the influence of the postwar movement in German art Die neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), he made a significant number of drawings and prints of a more descriptive kind, among them Bearded Man. Stylistically, the lithograph reflects the artist's tenure at the Bauhaus. Klee taught at this experimental school of art, founded in Germany after World War I, from 1921 to 1931. The Bauhaus emphasis on system prompted him to give greater rigor and consistency to his works by limiting the variety of forms and techniques in each. Bearded Man is created entirely of short flecks, as if the figure were seen through a mist.

Except for his earliest etchings, prints were generally Klee's most inventive works. This is especially true of his lithographs, which for the most part reproduce existing drawings. Such a drawing has not been found for Bearded Man, but the quality of line in the short marks is similar to that of lithographs for which exact drawings exist. They suggest that the print was traced through a sheet coated with lithographic ink, either directly on the printing surface or, more probably, onto a second piece of paper that was used to transfer the image.

Text by Marcel Franciscono, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008