Why Does He Run?
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ebrowne's picture


The question posed in the title of this piece is “why does he run?” and based on the fact that this was 1932 in Germany, I think the answer is pretty obvious.

You could even say that there were an abundance of answers. Why does he run? Maybe because Hitler is about to become chancellor of Germany and is going to kill all of the Jewish people. Maybe because the Nazi newspapers are talking about you, saying things like, "Then that great fellow Klee comes onto the scene, already famed as a Bauhaus teacher in Dessau. He tells everyone he's a thoroughbred Arab, but he's a typical Galician Jew." Why does he run? Because the Gestapo is searching your house, firing you from your job and your art is being put in a “Degenerate art” show. There are some really solid reasons to run at this point in Klee’s life.

Klee was known to do some semi-autobiographical works and this was no different. The stealthy little bird-esque man in the piece was probably him and the cow-ish thing watching him is probably a representation of a Nazi soldier (or maybe just a cow, it’s hard to tell with these things). This work is one of the last Klee made before he started experiencing symptoms of scleroderma, a long-term autoimmune disease where your skin hardens until you die. So, the minimalism of this work was a choice not forced upon him by his illness which, by the way, is a particularly gnarly disease in the long list of diseases to die from.  




  1. Partsch, Susanna (2007). Klee (reissue) (in German). Cologne: Benedikt Taschen.