Painted in 1910, when Jawlensky spent his last summer in Murnau, Rote Wolke can be seen as an experiment with pure colour, using the colourist vocabulary of the French fauves fused with the expressive concerns of the Blaue Reiter group. Wild and free to the point of almost total abstraction, Rote Wolke shows Jawlensky at his most uninhibited, rendering the skyline of the Bavarian Alps in powerful saturated colour, as if in utter disregard for any naturalist convention. Jawlensky encloses the brightly coloured areas with contours of black, green and blue, thus further forsaking naturalism for pure expressiveness. The Bavarian tradition of enamelled glasses became the springboard for the artist's new formal experiments, allowing an extraordinary spatial recession and a unique accentuation of the painted surface.
The intense colours of the landscape are the trademark of Jawlensky's Murnau phase. While dedicating the painting 'Eine rote Wolke fr rote schne Lisa' (on the verso of the board), the artist himself acknowledged the importance of this oil as a synthesis of his reflexions and concerns about the meaning and use of colour. Having kept this oil for more than two decades, Jawlensky gave it to the painter Lisa Kmmel, whom he met in 1927 and who became his secretary and confidante until he died in 1941. In 1937 the artist, devastated by his progressing paralysis and by the inclusion of his works into the infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition, dictated his memoirs to Lisa Kmmel, who made the inventory of all the works left in his studio and re-organised Jawlensky's entire oeuvre.