• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7735

    Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

    23 June 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 16

    Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

    Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund

    Price Realised  

    Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
    Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund
    oil and pencil on linen-finish paper laid down on board
    14 5/8 x 12¼ in. (37.1 x 31.1 cm.)
    Painted circa 1917


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Painted circa 1917, Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund dates from the period that Jawlensky first began to create his series 'Heads' and 'Faces.' It is only fitting that, having been painted during this historic period, this picture should have formerly been in the collection of his long-term friend and companion, his fellow artist Marianne von Werefkin. It then passed to her nephew, from whom it was acquired by the Kunstmuseum, Bern, until it was deaccessioned, together with Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf rotem Grund (the following lot) and sold to H.J. Schmied in 1959.

    Jawlensky's Mystischer Kopf series grew, as did the other 'Head' and 'Face' series which would come to dominate his output for much of the rest of his life, from a combination of influences. He had already begun experimenting with the quasi-abstract, colouristic rendering of nature in series of works in his Variations, originally based on the view from his window in Saint-Prex in 1914, where he had initially settled in Switzerland, having fled with his family and Marianne von Werefkin after the outbreak of the First World War. In 1917, he had moved to Zurich; because of the War, he had seen little art for some time, but in Zurich was able to enjoy exhibitions dedicated to Renoir and to Cézanne. This, and the exciting social network of artists and thinkers that he found in Zurich, gave him a new momentum in his painting. He now brought the meditative painting-process that had become such a central ritual to the painting of the Variations to the subject of the human face, one that had long held a fascination for him, in part influenced by the precedent of Russian Orthodox icons. Now, in pictures such as Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund which were all loosely based on the features of his admirer, and later promoter, Emmy 'Galka' Scheyer, Jawlensky began to create images that condensed the spirituality that he felt so keenly, which, in turn, had influenced an entire range of artists in Germany into the codified and stylised features of the human visage. As Jawlensky explained when discussing the genesis of these pictures:

    'It became necessary for me to find a form for the face, for I realized that great art was only to be painted with religious feeling. And that was something I could bring only to the human face' (Alexej von Jawlensky, quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1971, p. 30).

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    (probably) Marianne von Werefkin, Ascona, Switzerland.
    Alexander von Werefkin, probably by descent from the above.
    Kunstmuseum, Bern (no. 1844), by whom acquired from the above in 1956. H.J. Schmied, Bern, by whom acquired from the above in June 1959.
    The Redfern Gallery, London.
    Mr and Mrs S. Samuels, by whom acquired from the above on 16 February 1960.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 5 December 1979, lot 57.
    Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 3 December 1980, lot 57.
    LA Louver, Venice, California.
    Mr and Mrs Ray Stark, Hollywood, and thence by descent to the present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED CALIFORNIAN COLLECTION


    Literature

    M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume Two 1914-1933, London, 1992, no. 913 (illustrated p. 222).


    Exhibited

    London, The Redfern Gallery, Jawlensky, 1864-1941, October 1960, no. 37.