Felix Klee woke up on his ninth birthday to find eight strange little figures waving at him.
They were hand puppets made by his father, the artist Paul Klee who had based them on stock characters from Kasperl and Gretl (Germany’s Punch and Judy). For the heads, he used whatever he could turn to use from the household’s everyday life: beef bones and electrical outlets, bristle brushes, leftover bits of fur and nutshells. Next he began to sew costumes. Between 1916 and 1925 Klee (1879-1940) made some fifty hand puppets for Felix, of which thirty are still in existence.
Finally, Klee painted an old picture frame to serve as the curtained proscenium of a theatre. It fitted into a doorway, on one side of which were the puppeteer and puppets and on the other, the audience.
The cast included political figures, a self-portrait, and a skull-faced character which Felix called Dr. Death. When Felix grew up and went travelling he took many of his favourite puppets with him. Almost all of these were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Wurzburg.
The only survivor was Dr. Death.