White house on a red country road in the evening with a blue letter R in the lower right quadrant
Catalog #: 
Subject Matter: 

Medium: Lithograph
Size: 20 3/4 x 16 1/2 in. (image)
Location: Inside 340B LC
Donor: Donated by E.F. Lindquist; conservation and exhibition generously supported by Professor Emeritus H. Dee and Myrene Hoover.

About the Artwork

This is a lithograph of painting.

Paul Klee grew up playing music and making art. He ultimately decided to pursue art as a career. His work blends various art forms: music in his lyrical compositions, poetry in his interpretation of subjects, and his own personal writing. Klee painted Villa R in 1919; the same year that he first began experimenting with oil paint. He was forty years old. The titular villa refers to Villa Rosa, which Klee saw when he traveled through Italy in the early 1900s. His experience of the Italian landscape was informed by J. W. Goethe’s published journals of his own travels, Italian Journey, which Klee took with him to Italy.

In Villa R, Klee seamlessly blends two representational forms: written language and representational forms. The “R”, of course, is part of the alphabet but is not limited to that function in the picture. It is as much part of the composition as the moon, street, and house. Michel Foucault pointed out that Klee does not privilege one form over the other. Rather he breaks down the restrictions of language and representation to suggest a new space in painting. Cubists, such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, also combined words and letters in their paintings. However, in their works, the letters produced a tension between the painted world and the surface of the canvas. Because the letters were often flush with the surface of the painting in contrast to the fragmented objects existing in the illusory three-dimensional space created by the artist, the letters pulled the viewer back to the surface of the work. The letters also produce visual puns. In contrast, Klee’s letters function as integral elements of the composition almost divorced from their function in language.


Aichele, K. Porter. "Letter and Image in Paul Klee's Villa R." Word & Image 9, no. 3 (July - September 1993): 229-244. 

Colley, Ann C. "Paul Klee and the Fantasy of Synthesis." The Kenyon Review 9, no. 3 (Summer 1987): 1-15.

Foucault, Michel. "Klee, Kandinsky, Magritte." In This Is Not a Pipe, translated and edited by James Harkness, 32-35. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Marin, Louis and Greg Sims. "Picasso: Image Writing in Process." October 65 (Summer 1993): 89-105.

Abstract, Print from Painting, Cubism, Goethe, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Italy, Landscape, Nature

More about Paul Klee