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

Mystischer Kopf: Ganz erwacht

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Mystischer Kopf: Ganz erwacht
signed with the initials 'A.j.' (lower left)
oil on cardboard
11 x 7½ in. (28 x 19 cm.)
Painted circa 1917
Helene Jawlensky, until gifted to friends on 10 September 1956.
O'Hana Gallery, London (no. 793).
The Redfern Gallery Ltd., London.
John A. MacAulay, by whom acquired from the above on 26 November 1968. Galerie La Motte, Geneva.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1981, lot 56.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. II, 1914-1933, London, 1992, no. 870 (illustrated p. 191).
London, O'Hana Gallery, Summer exhibition, 1960, no. 20.
London, Redfern Gallery, Jawlensky, October 1960, no. 27 (illustated).
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, A Centennial Exhibition of Paintings by Alexej Jawlensky, February - March 1965, no. 43.
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Russian Avant-Garde, 1971, no. 43b.
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Lot Essay

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Jawlensky, a Russian national, was forced to leave Germany with only 48 hours notice, and he moved his family to Saint-Prex, a small Swiss town on Lake Geneva. Here he began to work on his Variations series, which had taken a deliberately musical title to reflect the musicality of the series process, of the different colours and appearances of the same view. Jawlensky was one of the great pioneers of series painting, taking a deliberately limited number of themes and examining them again and again in new ways and in new lights in order to derive new meaning or potential from the image. However, it was in the human face that Jawlensky found his greatest theme, and when he moved to Zurich in 1917, he began his celebrated Mysticher Kopf series and, a year later, his , Heilandsgesicht series. Between these and the later Abstrakter Kopf works, the human visage became a subject Jawlensky would explore for the rest of his life. As he said, 'the face is not just a face but the whole universe. In the face the whole universe becomes manifest' (Jawlensky, quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1971, p. 56). In this way, Mysticher Kopf: Ganz erwacht is a meditation upon existence and beauty, a focus for contemplation that plays a similar role to the Orthodox icons of the artist's native Russia and to the Buddhist art that later came to interest and influence him so much.

It was one face in particular that played a role in inspiring the Mysticher Kopf pictures - that of Emmy Scheyer, a young art student whom Jawlensky had met in 1916 who was so enthralled by his paintings that she gave up her own career to promote his work. Many of the Mysticher Kopf paintings have Emmy's features - large almond-shaped eyes, a long straight nose and bangs. Jawlensky nicknamed her Galka ('jackdaw') because of her jet-black hair. Scheyer became a great advocate of Jawlensky's work, and in 1924 she organized a tour in the United States of the works of Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Klee and Feininger under the name The Blue Four, later settling in California where, as their primary dealer in the US, she promoted and sold the works of all four artists.

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