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Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Property from the Collection of Jacqueline de Rothschild Piatigorsky
Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand

oil on board
27 ¾ x 20 1/8 in. (70.6 x 51.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1912
Clemence von Wächter, Stuttgart; sale, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, 29 May 1956, lot 474.
Dr. Bernhard Sprengel, Hanover (acquired at the above sale).
Otto Stangl, Munich.
Frank Perls Gallery, Beverly Hills.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, 19 June 1958.
C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, p. 237, no. 138 (illustrated; titled Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand vor blauem Hintergrund).
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1890-1914, London, 1991, vol. I, p. 397, no. 504 (illustrated).
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this work is displayed in a frame that is on loan for the exhibition, but is available for purchase.

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Max Carter
Max Carter Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted circa 1912, Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand emerged during one of the most intensely creative periods of Alexej von Jawlensky’s career, as he sought to synthesize views of the external world with his inner subjective perception of it. Beginning in 1911 during a sojourn to the Baltic Coast and continuing up to the outbreak of the First World War three years later, Jawlensky believed that the works he produced during this time were among the most powerful of all his artistic achievements, later referring to the period as ‘the turning point’ in his art (quoted in "Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel,Wiesbaden 1937," in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, op. cit., 1991, p. 31). Focusing almost exclusively on portraits of female sitters, the paintings he executed over the course of these years are characterized by dramatically simplified forms, juxtapositions of vibrant, sonorous colors, free, gestural brushstrokes and stark black outlines which frame and define his forms. Filled with a dramatic array of bright hues and energetic, visceral brushstrokes, Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand elegantly encapsulates the highly expressive and experimental nature of Jawlensky’s art during this time, as he began to emancipate the artistic image from its resemblance to nature and free color from its descriptive role in his painting.
The female sitter occupies the very heart of Jawlensky’s composition, her magnetic gaze holding our attention as she stares directly out from the canvas, her visage transformed by the complex interplay of vibrant tones used to model her features. The power of her gaze is emphasized by the introduction of a halo of centripetal, blue bands which appear to radiate outwards from her head, their colors echoing the shade of sky-blue which surrounds her pupils. Jawlensky’s use of rich, non-naturalistic pigments owes a clear debt to the art of Henri Matisse and the Fauves, whom he had first encountered during a visit to Paris in 1905, when several of his paintings were exhibited in the Russian section of the Salon d’Automne. It was at this exhibition that Matisse and André Derain shook the Parisian art world to its core with their vibrantly colored canvases and violently expressive brushwork, with such paintings as La femme au chapeau (1905) inviting ridicule, anger and praise in equal measure. Jawlensky was particularly inspired by Matisse’s rich, coloristic vocabulary, and further visits to Paris in 1907 and 1911 allowed him to interact with Matisse personally, visiting his studio and conversing with him about his techniques. Unlike the French master, however, Jawlensky was primarily interested in the expressive potentiality of color, rather than its decorative qualities. Believing in its ability to communicate the inner, spiritual, world of the artist, Jawlensky forged his own distinct approach to color, allowing it to become a channel for personal expression.
As with his contemporaries Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, the pursuit of the spiritual was a defining theme in Jawlensky’s painting, and would consume much of his artistic output across his career. He was particularly interested in the human face as a medium for the experience of transcendence, and the ways in which prolonged contemplation of the face could elicit a spiritual experience. As a result, portraits such as the present work focus very strongly on the subject’s head and facial features. In Brustbild einer Frau in rötlichem Gewand, Jawlensky expunges the idiosyncrasies of his sitter’s appearance in pursuit of a more generalized character, reducing traces of her individuality and identity as he renders her features in a highly stylized and geometric manner. In this way, Jawlensky turns his sitter into a blank canvas upon which he can project his own personal view of the world, a conduit through which he can reach new dimensions of emotional and spiritual depth in his paintings.

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