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Death and Fire

M. Therese Southgate, MD
JAMA. 2008;300(6):627. doi:10.1001/jama.300.6.627.
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Paul Klee (1879-1940) was 60 years old and living in the Lake Maggiore region of his native Switzerland when he died of scleroderma on June 29, 1940. Ailing and at times unable to work since 1935, during the last four months of his life, from January 1 to May 10, 1940, he produced a staggering 366 works—paintings as well as drawings. As one commentator noted, Klee “charted every stage of his final journey in an outpouring of works often of an almost unbearable poignancy.” (Verdi R. Exhibit Review of Paul Klee, Das Schaffen im Todesjahr, Bern Kunstmuseum. The Burlington Magazine. December 1990;132:894-895.) Among the very last of these works is the famed Death and Fire (cover).

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Paul Klee (1879-1940), Death and Fire, 1940, Swiss. Oil and colored paste on burlap; original frame. 46.7 × 44.6 cm. Courtesy of Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern (http://www.zpk.org), Switzerland. © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany.



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