The Kettledrummer image is composed of two arms, one of which is connected to an encircled eye and the other one is separated in space looking like an exclamation mark.
A dramatic tense is achieved using two red patches (magenta and vermillion); showing an optical expression to the drum rolls.
The audience is attracted by the Kettledrummer’s mysterious eye which shows the notion of a searching look. It can be described as Kettledrummer from the apocalypse, which seems to be implying “it is time!”
Paul Klee was very ill on July 8, 1937; Lily Klee writing to Grohmann said he stays up till very late at night, sometimes the drawings falling to the ground consecutively.
Grohmann exchanged saying he remembers Klee saying he felt so excited about his work, it was as if he was beating a drum. We see from this exchanges one of the fundamental problems that faced Klee in his work—the relationship to time.
He compares the relationship of at least three different ideas of time; is it comparison of heartbeat to drumbeats? Is it a chronometer? Paul Klee inquires the association of more than three different notions of time.
Kettledrummer looks like one of the images from the Eidola series named Knaueros, Former Kettledrummer (1940); that’s according to Andrew Kagan view.
The title of the series maintains its original Greek meaning: simulacrum, idols, images, and even ghosts, according to Paul Klee view. All the mentions solidify: the flashback of a dead kettledrummer from the Dresden Opera company by the name of Knauer, who was Klee’s favorite. Also, the nearness of the final calamity and the application of Greek letters based on the series, including the “birth of tragedy”.
It is really tempting not to compare Kettledrummer and Knaueros, with the drummer of the Dance of the Dead, which was chiseled on wood by Holbein in 1538; the drumsticks look like bones.
The Kettledrummer is an allegorical image looking like some modern memento Mori, eliciting the strange image that arose with Mozart’s Requiem.