Jawlensky painted Abstrakter Kopf: Winterläuten Nr. 2 in 1933, when his long series of Abstract Heads was coming to an end. These simplified, frontal faces, which are also known as Constructivist Heads, are characterized by a consistent compositional design in which the main structure of the head have been maintained, and features such as the closed eyes and thin mouth have been schematized into geometric planes that surround the central axis of the nose. Although similar in structure, Jawlensky's intricate brushwork and specifically varied color combinations make each work unique.
In 1931, Emmy Scheyer, Jawlensky's friend and artistic representative in the USA, purchased Abstrakter Kopf: Winterläuten, 1927 (Pieroni, no. 1266) from the artist. After meeting the Russian-born painter in 1916, Scheyer, whom Jawlensky called "Galka" ("Jackdaw" in Russian) because of her jet-black hair, gave up her own work to promote his paintings in Europe and America along with the other members of the "Blue Four"- Feininger, Kandinsky, and Klee. Scheyer wrote of Jawlensky's work: "[He] has transposed the human head into a language of abstract life; he has lifted it out of its earthly existence in order to reveal the soul and the spirit" (quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads Faces Meditations, New York, 1971, p. 109).
Scheyer did not have possession of the painting for very long, however, since Jawlensky expressly asked her to return it the following year. He included a sketch of the work in a letter from December 17th, 1932, noting: "I received the head, will start to copy it and hope to do it well" (quoted in Vivian Endicott Barnett, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, p.190). Two new related works resulted from this exchange, the present canvas, and another in a private collection (Pieroni 1451).
The works' subtitle has been alternately translated as "Winter Ringing" and "Winter Silence." The cool grays and warm hues evoke a crisp winter day in which gentle sounds such as wind, creaking branches, and one's own footsteps reverberate with increased awareness amid the overall stillness of the scene. This painting evokes the subtle light of a snowy winter landscape, as the sun wafts its warm hues over the frozen terrain. The golden glow of the surface suggests Jawlensky's search for the spiritual within. As he stated: "I have painted faces for many years. I have sat in my studio and painted, and have not needed Nature as a prompter. I have needed only to immerse myself, pray, and prepare my soul for a state of religious awareness" (quoted in Weiler, op. cit., p. 14).