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

Mit rundem Tisch

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Mit rundem Tisch
oil on board
22 x 20 in. (55.8 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1910
Galerie Günther Franke, Munich.
Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich (acquired from the above, 1952); sale, Kornfeld und Klipstein, Bern, 14 June 1967, lot 616.
Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, July 1968.
H.C. Heidrich, Die welt der Maler und der Bilder, Stuttgart, 1959 (illustrated, pl. VI).
C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, p. 279, no. 733 (illustrated).
J. Schultze, "Umgang mit Vorbildern: Jawlensky und die französische Malerei bis 1913" in Alexej Jawlensky, exh. cat., Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus Baden, Munich, 1983, p. 81, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 82).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 307, no. 129 (illustrated in color, p. 306).
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1890-1914, London, 1991, vol. 1, p. 297, no. 373 (illustrated in color, p. 301).
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Fauves and Expressionists, April-June 1968, p. 18, no. 37 (illustrated in color).
Yonkers, New York, Hudson River Museum, Art in Westchester from Private Collections, September-November 1969, no. 45.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Fort Worth, The Kimbell Art Museum, The "Wild Beasts": Fauvism and Its Affinities, March-October 1976, p. 143, no. 50 (illustrated, p. 146).
Madrid, Fundación Juan March and Barcelona, Museu Picasso, Alexej von Jawlensky, March-September 1992, p. 142, no. 44 (illustrated in color, p. 65).
Kunsthalle Krems, Austria, Alexej von Jawlensky: Magische Bilder, April-September 2003, pp. 69 and 148 (illustrated in color, p. 69).
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Lot Essay

During each of the years between 1907 and 1910, alongside landscapes and female portrait heads, Alexej von Jawlensky painted a dozen or more still-life compositions. Mit rundem Tisch (“[Still-life] with Round Table”) stands out among the artist’s tabletop pictures for its sonorous, lavishly brushed color effects; this painting projects an intense chromatic expression that far exceeds the accustomed parameters of a genre normally appreciated for its serene and contemplative qualities. These still-lifes mark the last time Jawlensky would feature this theme in a yearly extended series—in 1911 he began to concentrate mainly on the powerful, magnificent heads of women that brought him lasting fame. He thereafter painted still-life arrangements only on an occasional basis, until his final years, when he created a valedictory, visionary series of floral subjects.
To a degree more clearly observable than in his other works, Jawlensky’s still-life compositions manifest the impact of contemporary French painting. Russian-born and trained in the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts, Jawlensky settled in Munich in 1896. Beginning in 1903, he visited Paris and travelled elsewhere in France, usually with his companion Marianne von Werefkin, also an artist. During the summer of 1905 Jawlensky sojourned in Brittany, where he painted among the lingering memories of Gauguin (who had died two years earlier in the Marquesas Islands) and his followers. “There I came to understand how to translate nature into color according to the fire in my soul,” Jawlensky dictated in his Memoir, 1937. “My paintings glowed with color” (quoted in, M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, op. cit., 1991, p. 30).
From Brittany, Jawlensky continued on to Paris, where he became acquainted with Matisse. He attended the 1905 Salon d’Automne, where six of his paintings were on view, and experienced the unforgettable shock of seeing in Salle 7 the first Fauve paintings of Matisse, Derain, and their comrades. Jawlensky is believed to have returned to Paris the following year, again to attend the Salon d’Automne, where ten of his paintings were hanging in the Russian pavilion; he would have seen Matisse’s Nature morte à la statuette, painted earlier that year, in a nearby room. He was back the following fall to attend the landmark Cézanne memorial retrospective, and afterwards traveled to Marseille, where he painted landscapes in the Midi and along the Mediterranean coast. The intense expression he found in Van Gogh’s canvases ultimately impressed him most of all.
During the summer of 1908 Jawlensky and Werefkin, following the recommendation of Kandinsky and his companion the painter Gabriele Münter, rented rooms in Murnau, a town in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Pleased with these surroundings, they invited Kandinsky and Münter to join them. The latter couple had spent a lengthy sojourn in the environs of Paris during 1906-1907. Now painting together amid ruggedly scenic surroundings, all four artists took this opportunity to share and work through the lessons of their recent experiences, and to try out new ideas amongst themselves. The Murnau summer of 1908 proved to be a fruitful, liberating encounter for each of them. Proceeding from the Fauve example, they contributed a distinctive Russo-German approach to color in modern painting. In late 1908 Kirchner and the members of Die Brücke in Berlin were also adapting elements of Fauve painting, as well as drawing on the examples of Van Gogh and Munch, to forge their expressionist ethos.
“The exotic coloring of Jawlensky and of the Murnau Kandinsky sets the German work apart from the French,” John Elderfield has written. “French coloring resolved itself around the contrast of complementary hues; the German use of color depended on an orchestration of adjacent hues, set off and enlivened by complementaries, and generally deeper and more resonant in effect...The glowing light of German paintings contrasts with the light-reflective surfaces of the French. The Fauves...used high color in a harmonious way; the Brücke group, for the drama it evoked; Kandinsky and his friends, at the service of an inward vision” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1976, p. 143).
Like the Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists before them, the Fauves avoided the use of black, except in outlining and creating arabesques, or where the local color of an object required it. The Fauves used the pure white ground of the gessoed canvas to light from beneath, as it were, the pure colors they brushed over it. Jawlensky and Kandinsky, on the other hand, made extensive use of black, as both a ground tone and a constructive element in the overall chromatic scheme of their pictures. Jawlensky employed in Mit rundem Tisch a black under-painting, against which the red and yellow tones take on, as if in a relief effect, an especially fiery appearance. The saturated colors, both hot and cool, seem to lift off from the surface of the board and leap at the viewer. The black ground moreover serves as interstices between the various hues, creating the illusion that empathic outlines surround the objects on the table and the decorative floral pattern in the cloth.
Jawlensky and Kandinsky, together with Werefkin and Münter, returned to Murnau during the summers of 1909 and 1910, and continued to work in close proximity. Jawlensky painted Mit rundem Tisch during the final season of this rewarding and productive relationship. In 1909 Jawlensky and Kandinsky co-founded the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (“The New Artists’ Union of Munich”—NKVM) to exhibit their work and that of like-minded, progressive painters.
Kandinsky’s emphasis on landscape painting during this period led him down the route to abstract painting. Jawlensky also painted numerous landscapes in Murnau; indeed, his still-lifes may be likened to indoor landscapes. His interest in the domestic still-life (unlike Kandinsky, who only rarely painted interior subjects), together with portraiture, indicates a preference for composing a single, compact, and unified image that is central to and dominates the picture field—the image as icon. The pyramidal foundation in Jawlensky’s still-life arrangements—his use of this classical convention is evident in Mit rundem Tisch—is also apparent in the structure of his portrait paintings. Both genres moreover demonstrate the artist’s preference for engaging his subject close-up, intensifying a palpable, intimate sense of presence to maximize expressive effect.
Following the beginning of the First World War in 1914, Jawlensky strove for a radical, non-descriptive simplification of form, coupled to an absolute intensification of color. The wartime Landscape Variations and Mystical Heads culminated in his personal vision of a spiritual art, the Abstract Heads and Meditations of the late period. In his Memoir, Jawlensky recalled that at certain times during his earlier career “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 color and form the thing which was vibrating within me, and I achieved some good results” (M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, op. cit., 1991, p. 30).

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