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Portrait of an Oriental by Paul Klee
Portrait of an Oriental by Paul Klee

Portrait of an Oriental, 1914

Paul Klee

An elegant, stylized face emerges out of a brilliant blue ground in this dreamlike portrait. This work was inspired by Klee’s trip to Tunisia, where he combined his fanciful, somewhat stereotypical exoticism with the aesthetics of the Islamic art he encountered there. This portrait is infused with the strong light and bright colors of the North African countryside. Klee saw this painting, and others made during his trip, as a profound disruption and major turning point in his career. He felt the “rhythm of decorations” he saw in Islamic art was connected to the ultimate meaning of life.

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