On the Edge is a Paul Klee artwork that is currently housed in the Kunstmuseum of Basel, Switzerland.
Its name is a translation of the original Latin title, Ad marginem. Klee created the painting using watercolour and quill pen on a canvas made of lacquered cardboard. The work was made in 1930 but the artist returned to it during 1935 and 1936 to modify it.
This powerful work depicts the large, red disc of the sun close to the centre of the canvas. The rest of the painting is a murky, greenish ochre with patches and splashes of red to show the intense heat radiating from the sun.
At the very edges of all four sides of the frame are a range of natural forms that include birds, flowers, plants, animals and people as well as geometric and abstract shapes.
At first glance it appears that the sun’s force is pushing everything to the edge of the frame but it also seems as though the dark, somber greenery is being drawn towards the sun. Klee had visited Egypt in 1928 and the influence of Egyptian tomb paintings with their stylised depictions of the River Nile can be seen clearly in this work.
Klee created On the Edge when he was a teacher at the Bauhaus, an art school in Dessau, Germany. Klee left the Bauhaus and became a teacher at the Dusseldorf Academy in 1931 but as a Jew, his life was becoming increasingly hard due to the rise of the Nazis in Germany.
After being fired from his job, he moved to Switzerland. When he returned to this painting, five years after creating it, his life was very different and he was also suffering from health problems. He had contracted scleroderma, a chronic autoimmune disease, that caused him intense pain.