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Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan)

Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan)
signed 'A. Jawlensky' (upper right); signed again, inscribed and numbered 'A. Jawlensky Frau mit Fächer N.47' (on the reverse)
oil on board
26 7⁄8 x 19 7⁄8 in. (69 x 50.5 cm.)
Painted in 1912
Galka Scheyer, Hollywood, by whom acquired directly from the artist; Compulsory sale, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Alien Property, Los Angeles, 29 September 1954, lot 5, no. 36.
(Probably) Sam & Audrey Levin, St Louis, Missouri, by whom acquired at the above sale, until at least 1959.
Acquired circa 1960, and thence by descent to the present owners.
The artist’s handlist (titled ‘Frau aus Turkestan‘).
W. A. Luz, ‘A. von Jawlensky/Neue Bildnisse’ in Der Cicerone, vol. XIII, Leipzig, 1921 (illustrated p. 686).
C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 110, p. 234 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions).
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. I, 1890-1914, London, 1991, no. 461, p. 359 (illustrated p. 348; reverse illustrated p. 35).
Hamburg, Galerie Commeter, Jawlensky, 1920, no. 14 (illustrated p. 7); this exhibition later travelled to Munich, Galerie Hans Goltz, 1920; Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, September – October 1920; Frankfurt, Kunsthandlung Schames, December 1920; Wiesbaden, Neues Museum, January 1921; Barmen, Kunstverein, Ruhmeshalle, 1921; and Mannheim, Kunsthalle, 1921.
Dresden, Galerie Emil Richter, Alexej von Jawlensky, November 1922.
Chemnitz, Kunsthütte zu Chemnitz, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1923.
Stuttgart, Kunstsalon Schaller, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1923.
Frankfurt, Galerie Schames, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1924.
Los Angeles, Los Angeles Museum, The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, October 1933, no. 41.
New York, Buchholz Galleries, The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, October – November 1944, no. 20.
Lausanne, Palais de Beaulieu, Chefs d’œuvre des collections suisses, de Manet à Picasso, May – October 1964, no. 184.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gauguin and the Decorative Style, June – September 1966.
Locarno, Pinacoteca Comunale, Casa Rusca, Alexej von Jawlensky, September - November 1989, no. 44 (illustrated p. 78).
Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Fauvism and Modern Japanese Painting, December 1992, no. 71, p. 117 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, January – February 1993; and Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, February – March 1993.
Geneva, Musée Rath, Alexej von Jawlensky, March - May 1995, no. 68, pp. 114 & 256 (illustrated p. 112).
Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, on long term loan from circa 1982 until circa 1990.
London, Tate Gallery, New Displays, 1996.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 1912, Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan) showcases the daring nature of Alexej von Jawlensky’s aesthetic in the years immediately preceding the First World War. Filled with bold swathes of vibrant colour and vigorous, energetic brushwork that zig-zags across the composition, the portrait of a young woman clutching a fan is transformed under Jawlensky’s gaze into a rich meditation on identity and inner character. Held in the same collection for the last sixty years, the painting is a powerful illustration of the dramatic and expressive style that defined Jawlensky’s approach to the human figure during this seminal period of his career, as he sought to imbue his work with a sense of the spiritual.

Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan) emerged during a dynamic period of creative activity that Jawlensky later referred to as ‘the turning-point’ in his art. Beginning with the artist’s stylistic epiphany on the Baltic coast in 1911 and ending with the outbreak of war in 1914, Jawlensky believed that the works he produced during these years were among the most powerful of all his painterly achievements. Focusing almost exclusively on portraits of female sitters, these compositions were characterised by simplified forms, juxtapositions of vibrant, complementary colours, gestural brushstrokes and stark outlines, as he sought to free the artistic image from its resemblance to nature. Recalling this period in his memoirs, Jawlensky explained that during these years he ‘painted large figure paintings in powerful, glowing colours and not at all naturalistic or objective. I used a great deal of red, blue, orange, yellow, and chromium-oxide green. My forms were strongly contoured and came with tremendous power from an inner ecstasy’ (quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads Faces Meditations, New York, 1971, p. 98).

In Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan) the female sitter occupies the very heart of the composition, her magnetic gaze holding our attention as she stares directly out at the viewer, lifting the bright, geometric fan towards her cheek. Set against a deep blue background, the mysterious young woman’s highly stylised features are described in a vibrant interplay of glowing, warm tones, from bright magenta, violet and crimson, to golden yellows and oranges, with dashes of cool turquoise, petrol blue and indigo offering a contrasting note around her mouth and eyes. An aura-like ring of luminous blue pigment hugs the outline of her head, a frequent feature in Jawlensky’s portraits during this period, creating a halo effect that enhances the power and radiance of this interplay of colour across her form.

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 had shaken the Parisian art world to its core with their vibrantly coloured canvases and violently expressive brushwork, with paintings such as La femme au chapeau (1905) and Le séchage des voiles (1905) inviting ridicule, anger and praise in equal measure. Jawlensky was particularly inspired by the Fauves’ dynamic, chromatic vocabulary – together, they opened his eyes to a form of art which was no longer tied to the visible world, in which colour could become a powerful force for personal expression. As Jawlensky explained, it was during this trip that he came to understand ‘how to translate nature into colour according to the fire in my soul…’ (Jawlensky, ‘Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel, Wiesbaden, 1937,’ reproduced in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky, & A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume One, 1890 – 1914, London, 1991, p. 30). Further visits to Paris in 1907 and 1911 allowed the artist to interact with Matisse personally, visiting his studio to see his latest paintings, and conversing with him about his techniques and approach.

In 1912, Jawlensky began to display an increasing interest in depicting cultural types and characters in his portraits, an idea perhaps prompted by his recent meeting with Matisse, who had explored similar subjects in paintings such as L’Espagnole and L'Algérienne (both 1909). Many of Jawlensky’s portraits from this time crossed a broad spectrum of identities, from the women of Sicily, Macedonia and Spain, to anonymous figures from distant lands, such as Barbarenfürstin (1912) and Byzantinerin (1913). In several instances, his sitters appear dressed in elaborate costumes and headdresses, their attire designed to suggest a particular identity or nationality, from delicate lace mantillas and shawls decorated with flowers, to elegant headscarves and turbans covering their hair. In Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan) Jawlensky chooses to keep the woman’s clothing and accessories simple, reducing traces of her individuality and expunging any idiosyncrasies in her appearance to create a more generalised, archetypal character. It is through the addition of a geographical location to the title – Frau aus Turkestan – when the work was added to the artist's handlist that Jawlensky hints towards a possible source of inspiration, suggesting the sitter has travelled across vast distances from the Far East.

It is a tribute to the strength of Jawlensky’s artistic vision that many of the people who came into contact with him would become devotees, his intense spiritualism and profound, almost religious, belief in his art proving hugely influential. One of the artist’s greatest supporters was Emmy ‘Galka’ Scheyer, the first owner of Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan). Scheyer had first discovered Jawlensky’s work at an exhibition in Lausanne in 1915, where she had been captivated by his painting Der Buckel I. Determined to meet the artist, she travelled to St Prex, where he was living at the time, and promptly introduced herself. The two quickly developed a close and lasting friendship, rooted in a rich intellectual exchange and a shared fascination with the spiritual. It was Jawlensky who gave Scheyer the nickname ‘Galka’, inspired by a dream in which a jackdaw befriended and comforted him, and she swiftly adopted the moniker.

Though Scheyer was a young art student when they met, she was so impressed by the power of Jawlensky’s unique vision that she soon abandoned her own efforts, believing that she could never attain such a purity of intent in her painting. Instead, Scheyer decided to devote herself to promoting Jawlensky’s work internationally, signing a contract in 1919 to write a book about the artist, and later becoming his personal secretary. Through her diligent efforts, she was also able to reunite Jawlensky with many of the works he had been forced to abandon in Munich following the outbreak of the First World War, including a large number of his revolutionary pre-war compositions. Most importantly, Scheyer took it upon herself to organise several key exhibitions of Jawlensky’s paintings through the early 1920s, which she supplemented with impassioned lectures and tours.

In early 1924, Scheyer received an invitation from a friend to visit her in America, and she saw the trip as an opportunity to become an ambassador of European modernism across the Atlantic. She arrived in New York that summer laden with suitcases and a crate of paintings, and set about organising exhibitions and lectures in galleries and universities along the East Coast in an effort to promote the art of the German avant-garde to eager new audiences. As part of her marketing tactics, she coined the name The Blue Four, grouping Jawlensky together with Wassily Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger and Paul Klee in an informal association, showcasing their work alongside one another in her exhibitions and lecture tours through America. Her promotion of The Blue Four during this period proved indispensable to Jawlensky, providing him with not only an essential source of income, but also a wealth of intellectual and emotional support when he needed it most.

Frau mit Fächer (Frau aus Turkestan) was among the group of paintings that Scheyer and Jawlensky included in a series of important exhibitions in Germany at the beginning of the 1920s, travelling from Hamburg to Munich, and on to Hannover and Frankfurt. The painting later followed Scheyer to California, where she settled in Los Angeles, and remained in her collection until her untimely death in 1945.

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