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Paul Klee’s Angler (1921) was originally created as an oil transfer drawing using ink and watercolours on paper.
Klee had already achieved some success as an artist by this time and was gaining interest in his work. He was also continually stretching his creative talents by experimenting with different techniques and mediums.
The Angler shows a solitary figure or fisherman standing on a line or pier, which appears almost like a precipice against a blue background. The figure has been constructed with the use of fine lines which connect throughout the image.
From the arms which curve across the figure’s torso, a fishing line appears. The line drops down and appears to be held in place with the support of a weight.
The figure’s over-sized head is enigmatic. Some features are suggested but Klee was also well known for incorporating signs, hieroglyphics and often a sense of humour in his work. An "X" appears on the forehead and the ear is deliberately reversed.
The overall appearance of The Angler has an almost childlike appeal - a frequent aspect of Klee’s style. Klee was influenced by the simplicity of children’s art work but it was this child-like style that the Nazis despised and in 1937, Klee’s painting titled “The Angler” was one of the pieces of art chosen by the Nazis for their Degenerate Art Exhibition.
Anything that was Jewish, communist and considered un-German like (including modern art like Klee's) was labelled as “degenerate”. The paintings, selected for the exhibition which toured cities in Germany and Austria, were hung askew with slogans placed near them ridiculing the work.
It was a horrific time for artists like Klee and other members of Der Blaue Reiter group like his friend and fellow artist, Kandinsky.
The Angler is both charming and enigmatic like much of Klee’s work. It was fortunate not to have been lost during the Second World War and is now housed safely in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.