The Goldfish

Oil and watercolor on paper,
mounted on cardboard
19 1/8 x 27 in.
Kunsthalle, Hamburg

From Will Grohmann, "Paul Klee"

"This wondrous goldfish is in deep blue water, other little red and purple fishes rather keeping out of his majesty's way. There are tiny ripples in the water all around, and from the lower edge rise some light blue plants of simple form, such as are found in meadows and near ponds. The goldfish is giving off an inner light, and actually should light up the water, but the water remains dark. The goldfish glows alone with its improbable color. The cinnabar red fins and the red eye heighten the brilliance of the scales, which look as though embroidered upon the fish.

"Is it moving? Presumably it is, for the seven other fish seem to be running away from it. Calm as a god, it divides the blue element, which is deepest and darkest at the middle, where there is no trace of vegetation. Surely there is no reference here to stars or signs of the zodiac, or to other symbols - the goldfish is miraculous in itself, its size and its beauty. Everything is subordinate to it, everything else is present purely for its sake.

"Dialogue with nature as a conditio sine qua non," certainly, but was there any point of departure in nature here? Klee must have had other reasons for painting so many pictures of fish. Like his bird pictures, they rise to the higher spheres of art. ...[H]ere we have a dream picture in golden yellow, deep blue, and ultramarine. The shapes of the grasses and the leaves, the waves and the scales, are assimilated to our ordinary notions of such things, however. So here we have another metaphor of the world explored poetically and pictorially by the artist."