This painting is included in the Alexej von Jawlensky archive and will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné.
Infused with delicate colour and an absorbing visual rhythm, the present work, painted circa 1918-1919, is an engaging example of Jawlensky's series of works referred to as the Variations. The name of this series was a deliberate reference to the musical inspiration that lay behind them. This was to be the first theme that Jawlensky would explore in a series, a system of depiction that would define his oeuvre for the rest of his life. Variation conveys a powerful sense of emptiness and solitude, a pictorial representation of Jawlensky's state of mind at the time of its execution.
When the First World War began, Jawlensky was forced, as a Russian national, to leave Germany with his family. Having been at the epicentre of the Munich art scene for almost two decades, the sudden isolation of his new lodgings in Saint-Prex in Switzerland came as a shock. Being uprooted so violently and suffering various family tragedies, Jawlensky found his art-- which had reached an almost furious, burning vitality in its Expressionist manner-- was no longer appropriate to his feelings. His new-found solitude nurtured his already great interest in spirituality-- he was reading yogic literature and seeking forms of meditation. Painting his Variation works now became a form of meditation in itself. Jawlensky later recalled this period, and the great changes it provoked in his art, in his dictated memoirs:
'It was very tiny, our house, and I had no room of my own, only a window which I could call mine. But I was so gloomy and unhappy in my soul after all those dreadful experiences that I was quite content just to sit at the window and quietly collect my thoughts and feelings... In the beginning at Saint-Prex I tried to continue painting as I had in Munich, but something inside me would not allow me to go on with those colourful, powerful, sensual works. I realized that my soul had undergone a change as a result of so much suffering and that I had therefore to discover different forms and colours to express what my soul felt.
'I began my so-called 'Variations on a Landscape Theme', which was the view from my window-- a couple of trees, a path, and the sky. I started trying to express through painting what I felt nature prompting me to say. By means of hard work and tremendous concentration I gradually found the right colours and form to express what my spiritual self demanded' (quoted in M. Jawlensky, L. Peroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky: Catalogue Raisonnée of the Oil Paintings, vol. I, 1890-1914, London, 1991, pp. 25-30).