Currently on display at the Galerie Beyeler in Paris, Error on Green was produced in 1939 Paul Klee’s later period before his death from sclerodoma in 1940.
Firmly embedded in the surrealist style with echoes of his interest in children’s art, it is one of over 1200 works completed during what remains his most prolific year during a slight improvement in his health following a heartening visit from his friends Kandinsky and Picasso.
The large, simple style emblematic of his paintings at this time contributed to the speed and volume at which he was able to produce.
Still largely influenced by the power of colour, the large blocks in this painting are somewhat darker than his earlier works perhaps reflecting a degree of pessimism more obviously signified in a single black tear.
The perfect circle of the moon-like face is, however, far brighter and along with the striking red boot offer a contrasting optimism.
The unbalanced relationship between mathematical shapes in this painting might contribute to the name “error” in the title although the intrinsic sadness in the black sun and moon combined with the unnatural antennae apparently growing from the girl’s nose might suggest the “error” is more likely referring to growing social unrest or the decay of the natural world caused by human progression.
The discord in the painting embodies the lack of harmony felt by many during this time at the start of the World War II era and modern audiences might note strangely prophetic echoes reminiscent of the later atomic bomb.
The oversized circle wobbling precariously on a misshapen body reflects a world on the brink of collapse which might equally reflect Klee’s own personal condition at the time and the despair of society on the eve of war.