where is ad parnassum
Ad Parnassum (1932) is considered to be Paul Klee’s masterpiece and the best example of his pointillist style; it is also one of his most finely worked paintings. Ad Parnassum was created in the Dusseldorfer period. With 100 x 126 cm (39 x 50 in) it is one of his largest paintings, as he usually worked with small formats. In this mosaic-like work in the style of pointillism he combined different techniques and compositional principles. Influenced by his trip to Egypt from 1928 to 1929, Klee built a colour field from individually stamped dots, surrounded by likewise stamped lines, which results in a pyramid. Above the roof of the “Parnassus” there is a sun. The title identifies the picture as Apollon’s and the Muses’ place.
Around 1930 Klee often made use of this pictorial structure, which recalls the Pointillism of the late nineteen century. ‘Divisionism’ was his name for it. A further geometrical element appears within the ‘divisionist’ structuring – a triangle which, with no definite outline, exists solely by virtue of variations in the tonal gradations applied to the little squares. As a result, the picture seems multi-layered, spatial and suffused with light. One genealog of modern colour-light painting would progress from Georges Seurat to Klee. However, Klee was hardly interested in the theories of colour so essential to Seurat. He simply made use of a pictorial method which, although its possibilities were soon exhausted, helped him to create a number of masterful works.
For many, though, it is the deep technical complexities which make Ad Parnassum such a special work of art. The huge painting features incredible patches of colour, a sky comprised of beautiful combinations of the colour blue and a very prevalent synergy from the way in which small, identical tiny shapes become part of something much bigger.
The painting was seemingly influenced by Klee’s visit to Egypt in the late 1920s, because of the way in which it features a very clear pyramid style structure in the backdrop, alongside a bright orange glowing sun reminiscent of a North African sunset. Sunset was a further painting from Klee and follows a similar style, whilst Castle and Sun captures the Miro-style Sun.
2. Clementi’s well-known work ‘Gradus ad Parnassum, ou l’art de jouer le Pianoforte demontré par des Exercises dans le style sévère et dans le style élégant. Composé et dedié à Madame la Princesse Wolkonsky, née Wolkonsky, par Muzio Clementi, membre de l’Academie Royale de Stockholm.’ (Milan, Ricordi.)
GRADUS AD PARNASSUM. The title of two eminent progressive works on music. 1. Fux’s treatise on composition and counterpoint—’Gradus ad Parnassum, sive manuductio ad compositionem musicæ regularem, methoda nova ac certa, nondum ante tam exacto ordine in lucem edita: elaborata a Joanne Josepho Fux’ (Vienna 1725; 1 vol. folio). It was translated into German by Mizler (Leipsic 1742), into Italian by Manfredi (Carpi 1761), and into English, ‘Practical rules for learning Composition translated from a work entitled Gradus ad Parnassum, written originally in Latin by John Joseph Feux, late chief composer to the Roman Emperor Charles VI.—Welcker, 10 Hay Market’ (a thin folio with no date). This contains, in addition to the exercises in the text, a Kyrie and Amen from the Missa Vicissitudinis.
An exhibition surrounding the masterpiece.
Michael Baumgartner, Curator Head of Collection, Exhibitions and Research
«Ad Parnassum», since 1935 on permanent loan to Bern’s Museum of Fine Arts, courtesy of the Friends of the Museum, is in turn on loan to the Zentrum Paul Klee for the duration of the exhibition – the first time the masterpiece has left the museum in 14 years. Elaborate testing showed that it was possible to transfer the famous yet fragile work to the nearby Zentrum Paul Klee. The delicate state of the relatively large painting is an outcome of the execution of the work: Klee was fond of experimentation – not just in terms of form and content, but of technique, too. «Ad Parnassum» saw the artist employ a combination of casein binder paints and oil paints that have become brittle with the passing years. Splits in the paint have weakened its adhesion to the base, such that vibration and fluctuations in temperature and humidity could cause irreparable damage to the work. Paul Klee himself detailed the fragile structure of the painting:
Even under the influence of two very different constraints – one being a complete rethinking of the original material to suit Elision’s unusual ensemble and the new shape I was casting it in, as it was now to become a complete work in its own right, and the second being my 1991 composing temperament which was vastly different to that of 1986 – Ad Parnassum is still in many ways a sister piece to the earlier concerto.
Both works take their titles from paintings by Paul Klee, and in the case of Ad Marginem this is not a surprise given the musical references I found in his marine landscape. Klee was an amateur musician of some note and it has been suggested that in Ad Parnassum he was making a reference to the 1723 treatise on music theory and counterpoint of Johann Joseph Fux, Gradus ad Parnassum. While this musical reference in itself is enough to interest me in Klee’s painting, I am more fascinated by the constellation of colours and sense of contrast which he employs. With Ad Parnassum however, I made no attempt to attach any program to the music.
1 facsimile score (20p. — A4 (portrait))
Published by Australian Music Centre
Library shelf no. 785.2417/WHI 1