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Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

Stilleben mit gestickter Decke

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Stilleben mit gestickter Decke
signed with the initials 'A.j.' (upper right)
oil on cardboard
21 x 19½ in. (53.3 x 49.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1910
Fernand Graindorge, Liège.
Acquired from the above by the late Ernst Beyeler, Basel.
C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 735, p. 279 (illustrated).
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. I, 1890-1914, London, 1991, no. 374, pp. 297-298 (illustrated p. 297).
Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe-Museum, Collection Graindorge, February 1954, no. 21; this exhibition later travelled to Basel, Kunsthalle, August - October 1954.
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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

Alexej von Jawlensky painted Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke around 1910, at a crucial turning point in his life and career. It was at this time that he had begun to paint in the expressive, and indeed Expressionistic, manner that would come to inform his works throughout the rest of his career. The intense colours of this painting show the development of the increasingly intense palette that had come to feature in his works during the previous few years. Now, in his still life compositions such as Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke, he showed the degree to which he had absorbed not only the influences and ideas of other artists but had also discovered his own means. Looking at Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke, the viewer can clearly see the similarity between the bold palette used here, with outlines adding an intensity to the pools of local colour representing each of the objects, functioning like stained glass, and his portraits and landscapes from the period. Indeed, some of the hues present in Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke recall the landscapes that Jawlensky had painted around Murnau when holidaying there over the previous years in the company of artists including Wassily Kandinsky.

The still life format provided an important arena for discovery, and indeed self-discovery, as he sought an artistic language that was suited to his vision. The artist himself, in his recollections, discussing his discovery of the work of Paul Gauguin, which he saw during a visit to an acquaintance a few years later, had explained:

'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, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonnée of the Oil Paintings, vol. I, 1890-1914, London, 1991, p. 30).

In the bright, intense colours and deliberate eschewal of illusionistic perspective in Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke, Jawlensky's appreciation of the Synthetism that Gauguin had promoted and embraced is evident, yet it has evolved into something more intense. Indeed, looking at Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke, it is clear why Jawlensky had already become by this time a figurehead for a new generation of painters in Germany, especially some of the young Expressionists. It was in 1909 that he had founded the Neue Künstlervereinigung Munich alongside artists such as Kandinsky and Karl Hofer; this group would gain Franz Marc the following year.

It is a tribute to the quality of Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke that it was formerly in the prestigious collection of Fernand Graindorge. The Liège-based collector was a great philanthropist and supporter of the arts. His collection was celebrated in a 1954 exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Basel in which Stilleben mit Gestickter Decke featured; more recently, Graindorge was commemorated at an exhibition which was held between 2009 and 2010 in the Musée de l'Art wallon in his native Liège.

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