File puptcrit/puptcrit.0509, message 97

Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] RE: Paul Klee book
Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005 15:41:56 -0400

Hi all--

Somehow, I just noticed this exchange about Paul Klee's puppets in my  
pile of back puptcrit emails. The issue--triggered by a line in my  
new Puppetry book-- is whether or not Klee's puppets ever were shown  
outside the Klee household before 1977.

Besides Henryk Jurkowski's reference (quoted below by Ray DaSilva) to  
the puppets performing at the Bauhaus, there was at least one other  
(which I can't put my hands on right now--can anyone help?) that  
described the puppets as simply being on display there, but not  
performing.  Another reference I can find right now doesn't  
contribute substantially to solving the issue, but is nonetheless  
fascinating. It's Felix's description of his father making the  
puppets--and then that little puppet theater being replaced by a  
larger theater.

"On November 30, 1916, on my ninth birthday, my father gave me a  
surprise: a puppet theater. He had not wanted to buy ordinary puppets  
and had therefore made some himself.
Eight of them were on the birthday table.  He had made the heads of  
plaster of Paris and added other materials--buttons, pieces of mother- 
of-pearl and tin--to the wet plaster, which hardened before out  
eyes.  After the heads had been minutely drawn and painted upon, he  
went to work on the clothes.  The bits of fabric chosen from my  
mother's sewing box were cut and trimmed and then sewn together on  
the sewing machine. The dress was stuck to the head with paste and a  
long thread wound round the join.  Klee waited till the paste was  
dry, took off the thread, and the puppet was ready.  And finally he  
gave it some obscure name.  After a quarter of an hour the bits of  
fabric were firmly stuck and the whole thing was hung up on a door.  
The first stage setting was put together out of little pictures taken  
from the Blauer Reiter.  Every year, every birthday, fresh puppets  
were added to the collection, until 1921, when we moved from Munich  
to Weimar.  There I built a large theater with a proscenium and a  
backstage, lighting equipment, and several curtains.  For this  
theater my father painted a series of magnificent sets, all of which  
have unfortunately been lost."

This is in Reichbeiter, Art and the Stage. Greenwich, CT: New York  
Graphic Society, 1968 (a fabulous book). The only nugget of info this  
adds to the issue at hand is that after 1921, when the Klee family  
moved to Weimar, Felix seems to have abandoned the puppet theater his  
father made in favor of a larger-scale (puppet?) theater.  So Klee  
might  have moved the no-longer-in-use little theater to the Bauhaus,  
where various of his colleagues were experimenting with constructed- 
actor (puppet) theater. Unfortunately, Felix didn't specify whether  
the puppet theater remained in the Klee house or was moved to the  

And it's possible that the person quoted below by Mary Decker assumed  
that the puppets had only been in the Klee household.

On the other hand, my books on the Bauhaus don't mention Klee's  
puppets every being there.

So. . .


On Aug 23, 2005, at 10:34 PM, Mary Aimee or Ashley Sydnor wrote:

> Mary Decker wrote:
>> Hi Ray and All,
>> The book I have (entitled simply "Paul Klee") offers only two  
>> pages of very flowery text.  The rest is color plates.  But in the  
>> few written words, the book says that Paul Klee's puppets were  
>> used only by his children, in the privacy of their own home.   
>> Honestly, though, there is such emphasis in this book on being  
>> flowery and artsy, that I wonder if the words reflect true  
>> research and facts.
>> Here is another quote: "Deeply moved, I asked whether it might be  
>> possible to bring these puppets out of their seclusion and present  
>> them to the public; to install them in a museum and there begin  
>> the puppet show anew, on a larger stage than the one where they  
>> had once performed for a child and his family.  They had been the  
>> privileged playthings of a little boy and his family circle, the  
>> maskers of a private dreamworld of allegory and fable.  Were they  
>> now to be brought before an unknown audience, their seeming pact  
>> of silence suddenly broken? Provided that the museum could exhibit  
>> them to good advantage, Mr. Felix Klee agreed to the idea of  
>> revealing the puppets to the public at the Neuchatel Museum."
>> That was in 1977.  It sounds like the puppets were never used for  
>> public performances.
>> Mary Decker
>> ------------------------------
>> Message: 8
>> Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 09:26:57 +0100
>> From: "Ray DaSilva" <>
>> Subject: RE: [Puptcrit] Paul Klee book
>> To: <>
>> Message-ID: <003201c5a6f3$49df4580$4d469451-AT-PuppeteersUK>
>> Content-Type: text/plain;    charset="us-ascii"
>> Dear Mary and all
>> I am still keen to know if the puppets illustrated were ever used  
>> in any
>> public performances or were they just for home entertainment. Is  
>> there
>> anything in the book to indicate otherwise?
>> Jurkowski says "Between 1916 and 1925 Klee made puppets for his son
>> Felix.  The heads were made of gypsum [plaster of Paris] and the  
>> puppets
>> were dressed by a famous maker, Sasha Morenthaler.  Klee's puppet
>> theatre was taken to the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dassau in 1920,  
>> where it
>> apparently offered excellent productions impressing all who saw  
>> them."
>> Hist European Pptry Volume2 P62.
>> But perhaps those performances may have had nothing to do with Klee?
>> Ray
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> Dear Mary,
>     Did you and a friend by any chance drive to the '95 Fest at  
> Bryn Mawr? As I recall it was very hot .  At 85 I was huffing and  
> puffing to get around and you and several others were especially  
> nice to me.  As we left the Fest to go to the Airport I was sitting  
> up front next to the driver.  As we passed your car you honked and  
> waved.  When I saw your name on Puptcrit it rang a bell but I may  
> be confusing you with someone else.  My last Fest was a Regional in  
> '98 at George Mason University.  Now I am almost 90 and cannot do  
> Fests anymore but I enjoy Puptcrit and the Journals.  Love and  
> Blessings          Mary Aimee Sydnor.  
> _______________________________________________
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