Alexej Von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
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Alexej Von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

Heilandsgesicht (Saviour’s face)

Alexej Von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Heilandsgesicht (Saviour’s face)
signed with the initials 'A.J.’ (lower left)
oil on linen-finished paper laid down on canvas
14¼ x 10 5/8 in. (36.3 x 27.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1921
Hammer Galleries, New York.
Anonymous sale, Parke-Bernet, New York, 12 December 1968, lot 19.
Serge Sabarsky Gallery, New York.
Saltzman family, New York, by 1992.
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 16 April 1998.
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the oil paintings, vol. II, 1914-1933, London, 1992, no, 1138, p. 337 (illustrated p. 323).
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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

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 details that had been in his earlier 'Heads' series, the 'Mystical Heads' and the 'Saviour's Faces', of the preceding years. 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 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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