Death and Fire

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Death and Fire
Death and Fire.JPG
Artist Paul Klee
Year 1940
Type Oil on distemper on jute
Dimensions 43 cm × 43 cm (17 in × 17 in)
Location Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland

Death and Fire, known in German as Tod und Feuer, is a 1940 expressionist painting by Paul Klee. It was one of the last before his death in June 29 of that year. In 1935 Klee started to suffer from scleroderma, which manifested itself with fatigue, skin rashes, difficulty in swallowing, shortness of breath and pain in the joints of his hands.[1] Paintings during this period tended to be simpler and representative of the suffering he was going through.[2] "Tod", the German word for death, is a common motif throughout the painting. It can be seen most distinctly in the features of the face, though the "d" and "t" are rotated. The word can also be seen in the figure's raised arm as the "T", the yellow orb as the "O", and the figure's head as the "D".

The painting also represents hieroglyphics, an interest of Klee's during this time,[3] which can also be seen in many of his other late 1930s paintings, such as Insula dulcamara (1938) and Heroische Rosen (1938). As of 2014, it is on display at Zentrum Paul Klee, a museum in Bern, Switzerland that is dedicated to the works of Paul Klee.[2]


  1. ^ Varga, J. (November 2004). "Illness and art: the legacy of Paul Klee". Current Opinion in Rheumatology. 16 (6): 714–717. doi:10.1097/01.bor.0000144759.30154.84. PMID 15577609.
  2. ^ a b Aronson, Jeffrey; Ramachandran, Manoj (2010-02-01). "The diagnosis of art: Scleroderma in Paul Klee – and Rembrandt's scholar?". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 103 (2): 70–71. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2009.09k079. PMC 2813781.
  3. ^ "Death and Fire, 1940 by Paul Klee". Paul Retrieved 2014-05-16.