Painted circa 1917, Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund dates from the period that Jawlensky first began to create his series 'Heads' and 'Faces.' It is only fitting that, having been painted during this historic period, this picture should have formerly been in the collection of his long-term friend and companion, his fellow artist Marianne von Werefkin. It then passed to her nephew, from whom it was acquired by the Kunstmuseum, Bern, until it was deaccessioned, together with Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf rotem Grund (the following lot) and sold to H.J. Schmied in 1959.
Jawlensky's Mystischer Kopf series grew, as did the other 'Head' and 'Face' series which would come to dominate his output for much of the rest of his life, from a combination of influences. He had already begun experimenting with the quasi-abstract, colouristic rendering of nature in series of works in his Variations, originally based on the view from his window in Saint-Prex in 1914, where he had initially settled in Switzerland, having fled with his family and Marianne von Werefkin after the outbreak of the First World War. In 1917, he had moved to Zurich; because of the War, he had seen little art for some time, but in Zurich was able to enjoy exhibitions dedicated to Renoir and to Cézanne. This, and the exciting social network of artists and thinkers that he found in Zurich, gave him a new momentum in his painting. He now brought the meditative painting-process that had become such a central ritual to the painting of the Variations to the subject of the human face, one that had long held a fascination for him, in part influenced by the precedent of Russian Orthodox icons. Now, in pictures such as Mystischer Kopf: Frauenkopf auf blauem Grund which were all loosely based on the features of his admirer, and later promoter, Emmy 'Galka' Scheyer, Jawlensky began to create images that condensed the spirituality that he felt so keenly, which, in turn, had influenced an entire range of artists in Germany into the codified and stylised features of the human visage. As Jawlensky explained when discussing the genesis of these pictures:
'It became necessary for me to find a form for the face, for I realized that great art was only to be painted with religious feeling. And that was something I could bring only to the human face' (Alexej von Jawlensky, quoted in C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1971, p. 30).