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    Sale 7702

    Impressionist/Modern, Day Sale

    5 February 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 406

    Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

    Abstrakter Kopf: Parthenon

    Price Realised  


    Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
    Abstrakter Kopf: Parthenon
    signed with the initials 'A.j.' (lower left); dated '32' (lower right); signed and dated 'A.Jawlensky 1932' (on the reverse)
    oil and pencil on paper laid down on cardboard
    12 x 9 3/8 in. (30.5 x 23.8 cm.)
    Painted in 1932

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    Painted in 1932, Abstrakter Kopf: Parthenon is a mature example of the series of 'Abstract Heads' which Jawlensky began a few years after the end of the First World War, and which was to occupy him throughout the 1920s and 1930s. It was in this group of paintings that Jawlensky truly pared back all the superfluous, all the details that had been in his earlier 'Heads' series, the 'Mystical Heads' and the 'Saviour's Faces', of 1917-19 and 1918-20 respectively. These simplified, frontal faces are characterized by a consistent compositional design which retains the main structure of the head while translating features such as the closed eyes, nose and mouth into geometric planes that surround the central axis, creating a formalised template that allowed him to arrange interlocking planes of colour systematically in his search for absolute harmony and spirituality.

    Jawlensky regarded serial imagery as a means to fully explore the contemplative, introspective aspects of his work. 'The element of variation, which was to characterize [Jawlensky's] art to an increasing extent in the future, was closely bound up with the meditative attitude with which he approached the art of creation. Each picture, each conception was built up afresh from new beginnings to develop a particular possibility. Jawlensky declared on several occasions that before he started painting he would meditate, putting himself in a religious frame of mind which always enabled him to approach his theme of the human face afresh' (C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, New York, 1971, p. 17).

    Discussing his use of the face to undertake his personal examinations of the spiritual, Jawlensky explained that, 'I found it necessary to find form for the face, because I had come to understand that great art can only be painted with religious feeling. And that I could only bring to the human face. I understood that the artist must express through his art, in forms and colours, the divine inside him. Therefore a work of art is God made visible, and art is a "longing for God". I have painted "Faces" for many years. I sat in my studio and painted, and did not need Nature as a prompter. I only had to immerse myself in myself, pray, and prepare my soul to a state of religious awareness... They are technically very perfect, and radiate spirituality' (Jawlensky, letter to Pater Willlibrord Verkade, Wiesbaden, 12 June 1938, quoted in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. I, 1890-1914, London, 1991, p. 34).

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    The artist's estate.
    Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles, by 1969.
    The Virginia Steel Scott Foundation, Pasadena, California.
    Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 13 May 1980, lot 58.
    Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York, by 1980.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1980.

    Pre-Lot Text



    The artist's Cahier noir, p. 50 (as '1932 N.11).
    C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 366.
    C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky: Köpfe, Gesichte, Meditationen, Hanau, 1970, no. 311.
    E.D. Ross, 'The Divided Self', in The Sciences, New York, February 1982, p. 11 (illustrated).
    M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. II, 1914-1933, London, 1992, no. 1393 (illustrated p. 472).


    New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Jawlensky and Major German Expressionists, October 1980 - January 1981, no. 10 (illustrated p. 24).