Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
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Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

Abstrakter Kopf

Details
Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Abstrakter Kopf
signed with the initials 'A.j.' (lower left)
oil on panel
8 3/8 x 6¼ in. (21.2 x 16.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1921
Provenance
Gerd Rosen Gallery, Berlin.
Acquired from the above, and thence by descent to the present owner.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

This painting is recorded in the Alexej von Jawlensky archive and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné.

Painted circa 1921, the present work is an early 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 and thin mouth into geometric planes that surround the central axis, creating a formalised template that allowed him to arrange colour systematically in his search for harmony and for spirituality.

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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