In Paul Klee’s painting, Around the Fish (1926), a garnished platter of fish is surrounded by a constellation of seemingly disparate elements — a cross, full and crescent moons, an exclamation point, a forked red flag — all hovering against a dark abyss.
Some of Klee’s iconography grew out of his teaching. The arrow, which he initially used as a teaching tool to indicate force and emotion for his students at the Bauhaus, here points confrontationally towards a stylized head, possibly alluding to human consciousness. Although they are often enigmatic, Klee believed his personal hieroglyphs and figurative elements had wider connotations: “The object grows beyond its appearance through our knowledge of its inner being, through the knowledge that the thing is more than its outward aspect suggests.”
Around the Fish is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and is currently on view on the 5th Floor, in Painting and Sculpture I, Gallery 7.