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

Mädchen in gelbem Stuhl

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941)
Mädchen in gelbem Stuhl
oil on board laid down on canvas
21 1/8 x 20 in. (53.5 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1906-1907
Curt Valentin Gallery, New York.
Gertrude Bernoudy, St. Louis (by 1954); Estate sale, Christie's, New York, 10 November 1994, lot 407.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London, 1993, vol. 3, pp. 407 and 435, no. 2228 (illustrated, p. 407).
New York, Curt Valentin Gallery, Der Blaue Reiter, December 1954-January 1955, no. 7 (illustrated; dated 1911).

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Lot Essay

"Every new language can be alienating, even repellant. One must have the will and one must understand, as with every new language that one has to learn from the beginning. One must not let the soul protest, the soul must exert itself, suffer. And that is how one reaches understanding. That is always so.” (Alexej von Jawlensky quoted in a letter to Pater Willibrord Verkade in June 1938 in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, 1890-1914, London, 1991, vol. I, p. 34).
Painted circa 1906-1907, Mädchen in gelbem Stuhl dates from a crucial period in Jawlensky's career when he began to develop the expressive influence and understanding of color for which he would become famous. In this painting, his love of pure and untrammeled color is clear in the sitter and her chair, the saturated and intense red bursting and vibrating against the greens and yellows that otherwise dominate the composition, barely contained by the thick, black outlines. This Cloisonnist technique lends the scene an intensity that is akin to stained glass recalling in particular the significant influence that he found in the work of Paul Gauguin and the Nabi school.
Seeing one of Gauguin’s works in 1906, as Jawlensky recounted in his 1937 memoir to Lisa Kümmel, had a profound impact on the artist: "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” (quoted in "Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel, Wiesbaden, 1937," pp. 25-33 in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, ed., op. cit., p. 30).
Jawlensky's increasing interest in color, to which he was to become almost spiritually attached in his pictures, also owed itself to two other artists during this period: the Nabi painter Paul Sérusier and the arch-colourist Henri Matisse of the Fauve school. Both of these he had met around the time that Mädchen in gelbem Stuhl was painted, yet the incandescent palette with which areas of this work are filled clearly owes a great part of its vitality to Matisse, while the increasing sense of a poetic and spiritual power translated through color owes much to the theories of the Nabis. This was a facet of Jawlensky's painting that would become formalized in a different way the following year, when he began holidaying in Murnau with his fellow Russian, Wassily Kandinsky. Mädchen in gelbem Stuhl, though, was painted during a brief window when it was to the lyrical colorism of the French that Jawlensky had turned.

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