Dating from circa 1910, Roter Abend - Blaue Berge is one of the breakthrough landscapes that Alexej von Jawlensky painted during his summers at Murnau. It was in 1908 that Jawlensky had first gone to Murnau, by the Bavarian Alps. Those peaks provided a dramatic vista for the artist, as is clear in the mountains shown as a jagged succession of deep, intense blue triangular forms in the background of Roter Abend - Blaue Berge, eating into the rich orange-red of the evening sky. The depiction of his landscape using bold swathes of vigorously-applied colour, kept largely in discreet fields avoiding too much shading or modulation, reveals the influence that the work of Henri Matisse had had on Jawlensky from the occasion of their first meeting during the former's Fauve period. However, Jawlensky has pushed Matisse's precepts of colour to a bold new extreme. In Roter Abend - Blaue Berge, there is a spiritual quality which prefigures the codified heads and the Variations, the meditative landscapes, that he would come to make in later years.
It was this spiritual dimension which would also result in the incredible depth of influence that Jawlensky came to have on much of the German Expressionist movement. During his summers in Murnau, which were mostly spent in the company of his compatriot Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, Jawlensky had been encouraged to move further into realms that approached abstraction. Looking at Roter Abend - Blaue Berge, the similarity of outlook of Kandinsky and Jawlensky is clear: in this picture, the colour glows with such emphatic intensity, highlighted by the highly-keyed contrasts, that its figurative motifs come close to dissolving. At the same time, the impact of the Bavarian painted glass that both artists so appreciated is clear in the warm glow of colours.
It was in 1909, the year before Roter Abend - Blaue Berge was most likely painted, that Jawlensky had grouped together with several other prominent artists of the day including Alfred Kubin, Münter and, crucially, his compatriot Kandinsky to found the NKVM, the 'Neue Künstlervereinigung Munich'. Jawlensky was the second chairman, serving after Kandinsky. The two Russians served as figureheads for the movement in part because they were visionaries, yet had maturity and experience on their sides compared to some of the German members who joined. This marked the beginning of Jawlensky's time as a key influence on generations of artists, a position that he maintained through much of the rest of his life, be it during his time in Zurich with Paul Klee, or with the Dada artists. His influence relied in part on his sense of authority, but also on the spirituality which so clearly breathes through pictures such as Roter Abend - Blaue Berge.