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It depicts an abstracted figure, sleeping beneath a huge, vibrantly coloured moon, in the crescent of which rests a red circle. The celestial features are set in the darkest black, framed in a lighter tone which seems at first glance to have been hastily sketched around.
But nothing in Klee is done hastily. A hard man to pin down stylistically, his ouevre takes in everything from Cubism to Expressionism and Surrealism. An excellent draughtsman, Klee was as happy working with precision in ink on paper as he was daubing abstract canvases, his overriding principle was to explore radical ideas. Everything in this painting is there for a reason.
The picture dates from 1929, a period when Klee was teaching at the Bauhaus, where he was a contemporary and friend of Kandinsky, and there is certainly something of Kandinsky's intense use of colour in "Strong Dream."
The moon, and its accompanying sphere are a strong red and yellow respectively, the more so for being set in a night of the darkest black. But more closely, the black is allowed to show through, are they really there? Or is this a dream?
This theme of partial transparency is explored more fully in the sleeping figure, sketched as he is in coloured lines. He is insubstantial, not fully there.
Is Klee implying that this is how we are when we dream? Certainly the items in the sky are more fully realised, more filled in, than this rough sleeper with his pillow not quite under his head.
The strength of this painting comes from the energy of the brush strokes. There is indeed a dreamlike quality to its composition, the sleeper beneath his sky, framed as it is.
The lighter tones framing the moon have an intensity to the brush strokes which seem to reflect the strange textures and energies which invades our dreams as we sleep.
In framing the moon they draw the eye first to that, and then to the sleeper below. Maybe Klee is implying that when we sleep, our dreams are more real than we are.