Fish in the Harbour Paul Klee Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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North African influences continue in Klee's Fish in the Harbour watercolour

Fish in the Harbour is a vivid watercolour painted by Paul Klee in 1916. This delicate abstract contains vibrant splashes of colour, including images of ships as well as fish.

At first glance, the fish in this painting may be hard to spot, with an impression that they are blurred and hidden by water.

The painting has a luminous quality, with the dark outlines of the ship being glimpsed amid the bright surrounding shapes. Originally entitled Der Fisch im Hafen, Fish in the Harbour is one of many Klee works to feature fish. They were a motif which he constantly returned to during his career.

He frequently drew inspiration from the aquarium in his own home, and also discussed fish with his students.

This work dates from Klee's mystical abstract period, which followed a visit to Tunisia where he became fascinated by light. He had worked in black and white before this visit, but went on to celebrate colour in his paintings.

Klee travelled to Tunisia together with fellow artists August Macke and Louis Moilliet, who were both fellow members of the group of Expressionist artists known as The Blue Rider. Both these artists also used vivid colours in their work.

Some of Klee's most famous fish paintings date from the 1920s, during the period where he was teaching at the Bauhaus art school in Germany.

These include Fish Magic, a romantic work where colourful fish are seen in a dark sea, and The Goldfish, where a large, glowing golden fish is surrounded by smaller fish. By contrast, another painting from this period, Around the Fish, features a garnished fish presented on a plate.