PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF JOSEPHINE & WALTER BUHL FORD II
Signed and dated Jawlensky 1912 (lower right)
Oil on board
Kunsthalle, Mannheim (acquired from the artist in 1922 and de-accessioned 1937 as "Entartete Kunst")
Karl Buchholz (on commission from the Propagandaministerium, Berlin, circa 1938)
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Acquired from the above on April 17, 1962
Hamburg, Galerie Commeter; Berlin, Galerie Gurlitt; Munich, Galerie Hans Goltz; Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft; Wiesbaden, Neues Museum; Barmen, Kunstverein Ruhmeshalle, Jawlensky, 1920-1921
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Entartete Kunst, 1937
W. A. Luz, Der Cicerone, vol. XXII, Leipzig, 1921, illustrated p. 688
Clemens Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 108, illustrated p. 234
Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky Heads Faces Meditations, London, 1971, no. 127, listed p. 123
Peter Klaus Schuster, Nationalsozialismus und "Entartete Kunst," Munich, 1987, listed p. 167
Stephanie Barron, "Degenerate Art", the fate of the Avant Garde in Nazi Germany (exhibition catalogue), The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991, pp. 75 and 261
Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky and Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, Volume One, 1890-1914, London, 1991, no. 492, illustrated p. 391
Throughout his career, Alexej von Jawlensky (see fig. 1) would always return to the face as a means to explore the range of human emotion. By employing anonymous portraits to express the power and impact of color (see fig. 2), Jawlensky believed that “human faces are for me only suggestions to see something else in them – the life of colour, seized with a lover’s passion” (quoted in Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky Heads Faces Meditations, London, 1971, p. 12). Sizilianerin mit Grünem Shawl, a bold Expressionist composition from 1912, is one of his most powerful examples of this motif. Completed at the most important period of the artist’s career, it is a distillation of the varied stylistic concerns that preoccupied Jawlensky and the avant-garde during the early part of the 20th century.
Sizilianerin mit Grünem Shawl reflects the many stylistic influences that shaped Jawlensky’s art and contributed to the development of German Expressionist painting. Around the time he created this work, Jawlensky was living in Munich and working closely with fellow Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky of the independent artist group known as “Neue Künstlervereinigung.” In 1912, the year the present work was painted, Kandinsky founded Der Blaue Reiter, an arts periodical that promoted the ideas of this new group and expounded on the value of color and the aesthetic influences of Eastern European folk art. Jawlensky was greatly affected by the ideas of his colleagues, and developed his own expressive style of painting using bold color patches and strong black outlines. The present work is a marvelous example of his new style and exemplifies the concerns of this next wave of German Expressionism.
Jawlensky’s reliance upon color as a means of visual expression derived from the examples of the Fauvist painters of France. Jawlensky first met these artists, including Henri Matisse and Kees van Dongen, shortly after the Fauves' premiere exhibition at the Salon d’Automne in 1905. He was inspired by their wild coloration and expressive brushwork, and between 1909-1911 the works of these artists had a profound impact on his painting (see figs. 3 and 4). Like Matisse, who famously remarked, “I used color as a means of expressing my emotion and not as a transcription of nature”, Jawlensky believed that color communicated the complex emotions of his subjects (Jacqueline and Maurice Guillaud, Matisse: Rhythm and Line, New York, 1987, p. 24). In the present work, he has demonstrated the effectiveness of his theory in this striking portrait of a young Sicilian woman.
Another important influence on Jawlensky’s painting during this period was the multi-dimensional approach of the Cubists, whose fragmented and highly abstracted compositions he had seen in Paris. As Clemens Weiler has noted, “Cubism… supplied Jawlensky with the means of simplifying, condensing and stylizing the facial form even further, and this simplified and reduced shape he counterbalanced by means of even more intense and brilliant colouring. This enabled him to give these comparatively small heads a monumentality and expressive power that were quite independent of their actual size” (Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky Heads Faces Meditations, London, 1971, p.105).
Spending the summer of 1911 at Prerow on the Baltic, Jawlensky reached an important climax in his career in which he synthesized his reaction to these artistic movements into a personal and unique artistic expression. As Weiler describes, “For him that summer meant the first climax in his creative development. His colours grow as if seen in a state of ecstasy and his shapes are bound powerfully together with broad outlines” (ibid., p.14).
Sizilianerin mit Grünem Shawl is a product of the creative outburst. In the present work, the artist employs a color palette of bright blues and greens, rendering the facial features of his sitter with broad strokes. The model in this instance is unknown, but Jawlensky was concerned less by the realistic portrayal of his subject than with capturing the emotional impact of the composition as a whole. In three-quarter profile, the figure turns her head to the viewer in what seems to be a singular and passing moment. Her powerful gaze captures the viewer’s attention, and her bright eyes create a provocative focal point for the entire picture. As he once wrote to a prominent art collector, “What you feel in front of my paintings is that which you must feel, and so it seems to you that my soul has spoken to yours – therefore it has spoken.” (James Demetrion, Alexei Jawlensky: A Centennial Exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum, 1964, p. 22)
This painting was de-accessioned by the Kunsthalle, Mannheim in 1937 on instructions from the German Propaganda Ministry and was originally designated for destruction. It was saved when it was realized that the work could be used to generate foreign exchange. As a result, this important work entered legitimate private ownership in 1938.
FIGURE 1 The artist in Munich, circa 1905
FIGURE 2 Alexej von Jawlensky, Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut), 1910, oil on cardboard laid down on canvas, Private Collection
FIGURE 3 Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau, 1905, oil on canvas, Private Collection
FIGURE 4 Kees van Dongen, Femme au grand chapeau, 1906, oil on canvas, Private Collection
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