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Ventriloquist and Crier

21 November 2019
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Watercolor and transferred printing ink on paper, bordered with ink, mounted on cardboard. Imaginary beasts float within a transparent ventriloquist who appears to be all belly-except, of course, for a pair of legs, tiny arms, and a sort of head without a mouth. The little creatures inside the ventriloquist might symbolize the odd noises and voices that seem to emanate from him. The moor is indicated by the background grid of warm earth colors that turns dark toward the center and against which the figure, as part of this grid, stands out like a light-colored bubble in clear reds and blues. As if attracted by the animal sounds above him, a stray fish is about to enter a net dangling from the lower part of the ventriloquist’s anatomy-perhaps to join the menagerie within.

Ventriloquist and Crier in the Moor is a watercolor, ink painting created by Paul Klee in 1923. It lives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Paul Klee was a Swiss painter of German nationality. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was also a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered color theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures on form and design theory, published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that is compared to the importance that Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design, and architecture. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes child-like perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality. His work influenced all later 20th-century surrealist and nonobjective artists and was a prime source for the budding abstract expressionist movement.

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