Paul Klee was born in Switzerland and studied in Munich, but it was only through his subsequent close friendship with the abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky that he became involved with the modern movement. In the 1920s, he taught at the influential Bauhaus school of art in Weimar and Dessau, where he was a dedicated teacher and theoretician.
He fled Germany in 1933, returning to Switzerland. The drawing seen here was one of a series made in Dessau at the Bauhaus, and demonstrates his method of creating form from only essential lines. Fifteenth-century Italian art, cubism, African art, East Indian art, children's art, and the art of the insane all fascinated him and influenced his work.
Ausgang features a family on an outing: four human figures, in the center of the composition, and two pets, which appear in the lower left corner. With its intentionally formulated line, Ausgang demonstrates Klee's characteristic geometric abstraction of the human figure infused with a wit and a feeling for family relationships. He establishes this interwoven family network through a rhythmic interpenetration of lines and shapes; the line between the smallest human figure in the lower left center of the composition and the larger figure beside it suggests a literal (physical), as well as a symbolic (emotional) representation of the bond between a child and a parent, probably the mother.
Ausgang was given to Nancy Hanks '49, first head of the National Endowment for the Arts, by Nelson A. Rockefeller. It came to the museum as part of her bequest in 1983.
Paul Klee, ca. 1640
August 1, 2006