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Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more ABSTRACTION BEYOND BORDERS: WORKS FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTIONFrom Paris to Munich, Berlin, Milan and Hanover, in the opening decades of the Twentieth Century, a number of artists created art that radically differed from those of their predecessors. Working across Europe, these pioneering provocateurs, radicals and trailblazers – Georges Braque, Francis Picabia, František Kupka, to name just a few – shunned the last vestiges of illusionism to instead create unprecedented works with no visible, recognisable or definable subject matter. Liberating colour, line and form from their centuries-old descriptive role, they overturned pictorial tradition, embarking on an abstract adventure that would come to define art of the Twentieth Century. Crossing geographical boundaries, encompassing a variety of media, and often blurring traditional distinctions of painting and sculpture, abstraction spread with an extraordinary speed, transforming artistic practice forever. From the initial steps towards a new artistic language, to the paradigmatic embodiment of this concept, this diverse group of works embodies this varied, experimental and groundbreaking path of abstraction, demonstrating the variety of ways that artists across the globe embraced this radical practice. Braque’s cubist composition, Cartes et cornet à dés presents the origin of this move towards a new, non-representational artistic language. Along with Picasso – the pair, ‘like mountain-climbers roped together’, as Braque recalled of this frenzied period of seismic innovation – the artist undermined conventional notions of perspective, opening the door to a whole new way of depicting the world. As rebellious as the cubists’ rejection of the centuries-old rules of representation, Picabia’s playful collage Sans titre (Pot de fleurs) uses the very materials of art making to parody the mimetic traditions of art, creating a semi-abstract play of colour and line. Far removed from any trace of the recognisable world, Kurt Schwitters’ rare Merz relief, Das Richard-Freitag-Bild dates from the height of his involvement with the International Constructivist movement. It was executed during a period when he was codifying Merz – the one-man art movement that he created in 1919 – into a utopian Constructivist language of form, taking the deconstruction of Dada and combining it with the aims of Constructivism. Following the same aesthetic, Georges Vantongerloo’s perfectly composed De Stijl composition embodies the tenets of geometric abstraction. In addition, Kupka, one of the leading pioneers of non-representational abstraction, is represented in this collection with a rare composition entitled Series C, III, Elevation, a work that marries his elegant abstract idiom with the deeper, spiritual dimension that was often the source of his abstractions. By contrast, Magritte, an artist whose unique form of Surrealism serves as the very antithesis to the development of non-representational abstraction, is represented in this group with an important early painting, Les signes du soir. A pictorial trompe l’oeil riddle, with this painting Magritte confuses, undermines and questions the entire nature of representational painting, paving the way for the conceptual art that dominated artistic production of the post-war era. From the purely formal – Schwitters and Vantongerloo – to the spiritual, mystic or surreal – Kupka, Jawlensky, Magritte and Picasso, this collection, assembled with the eye of an aesthete, encapsulates the multi-faceted nature and pioneering spirit of modernist abstraction throughout the Twentieth Century. Their curiosity, daring eclecticism and pioneering spirit of exploration nearly 100 years ago paved the way for artists and collectors today.
Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)

Abstrakter Kopf: inneres Schauen vom Glück

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Abstrakter Kopf: inneres Schauen vom Glück
signed with the initials 'A.j.' (lower left); dated '26.' (lower right); signed, dated, dedicated and inscribed '1926 August A.v. Jawlensky Inneres Schauen "Vom Glück." Meiner lieben Lisa, Vergiss aber nicht! Juli 1934. N9' (on the reverse)
oil on board
16 5/8 x 12 3/4 in. (42.3 x 32.3 cm.)
Painted in 1926
Lisa Kümmel, Wiesbaden, a gift from the artist in July 1934.
Private collection.
Galerie Thomas, Munich, by 1978.
Galerie Kornfeld, Bern.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999.
The artist's Cahier Noir, p. 6 (titled 'Vom Glück').
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. II, 1914-1933, London, 1992, no. 1252, pp. 40 & 398 (illustrated p. 427).
Wiesbaden, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Freie Künstlerschaft Wiesbaden, October 1926, no. 34 (titled 'Strahlendes Glück (Melodie)').
Dresden, Galerie Neue Kunst Fides, Klee und Jawlensky, January 1928, no. 5.
Berlin, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Die Blauen Vier, October 1929, no. 84.
Munich, Galerie Thomas, Alexej Jawlensky: Unbekannte Arbeiten, Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Miniaturen, Bilder, February - March 1978, no. 29, p. 30.
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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

Painted in 1926, Abstrakter Kopf: inneres Schauen vom Glück ('Abstract Head: Inner Vision from Happiness') is an exquisite example from Alexej von Jawlensky’s celebrated series of the same name, its disciplined, restrained means of depicting the face and delicate colour palette of softly gradated pastel shades encapsulating many of the key characteristics of the artist’s highly nuanced experimentations from this period. Occupying the artist for over a decade, the Abstrakter Kopf series were among Jawlensky’s most contemplative paintings, with each work elegantly exploring the spiritual power of colour and abstract form through the medium of the human face. For Jawlensky, working in series offered an important means of exploring the meditative, introspective aspects of his subject matter. ‘I am not so much searching for new forms,’ he explained, ‘but I want to go deeper; not to progress in breadth but in depth’ (Jawlensky quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads Faces Meditations, New York, 1971, p. 17).

In many ways, the series recalls the religious icons of the artist’s native Russia, their unflinching frontal pose and innate ethereal, otherworldly spirit offering Jawlensky a pathway to personal reflection on the mysteries of the universe. Jawlensky believed that the human face could act as a medium for the experience of transcendence, with prolonged contemplation of the face eliciting a spiritual experience in both the artist and the viewer. In a letter written to Pater Willibrod Verkade, Jawlensky explained the genesis of the Abstrakter Kopf series: '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. […] 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. I painted many 'Faces’ … They are technically very perfect, and radiate spirituality' (Jawlensky, letter to Pater Willlibrord Verkade, 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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