Painted circa 1907, Blaue Vase mit Orangen dates from one of the pivotal periods in Alexej von Jawlensky's life. For it was during this time that he was exposed to a range of influences which would allow the artist to express the spiritual aspects of existence that he so sought to capture. During those years in the middle of the first decade of the Twentieth Century, Jawlensky had met Henri Matisse and had seen some of the works by his fellow Fauves. Jawlensky was struck by the bold Fauve palette and began to create glowing paintings, filled with pure colour such as this, in which there is a pulsing energy to the juxtaposed oranges, reds, greens and blues.
Jawlensky was seeking to convey a spiritual dimension in his paintings, and in this was influenced in part by his friend Pater Willibrod Verkade, a monk who, as a painter, had been admitted to the Nabis, the group of artists whose name meant 'prophets' and who had embraced and indeed furthered the teachings of Paul Gauguin. In 1907, through Verkade, Jawlensky had been introduced to Paul Sérusier, the founder of the Nabis, who had brought a work, the famous Talisman, painted in 1888 under the auspices of Gauguin himself as an example to his friends.
Jawlensky had seen one of Gauguin's paintings at Vom Rath's in 1906, as he recounted in his 1937 memoir to Lisa Kümmel, an artist he had known for a decade and who helped to catalogue his works, and to whom Blaue Vase mit Orangen was presented as a gift from the artist, a mark of his esteem for this painting. In words that point to the importance of the still life paintings of the period, he recalled:
'It was at his place that I saw for the first time a painting by Gauguin, the Rider on the Beach in Tahiti. I liked the painting very much and it taught me a great many new things. I went on working for many years like this, searching for my own language. At that time I was painting mostly still lifes because in them I could more easily find myself. I tried in these still-life paintings to go beyond the material objects and express in colour and form the thing which was vibrating within me, and I achieved some good results' (Jawlensky, quoted in 'Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel, Wiesbaden, 1937', pp. 25-33 in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky (ed.), op. cit., London, 1991, p. 30).