Alexej von Jawlensky
- Alexej von Jawlensky
STILLLEBEN MIT BLUMEN UND ORANGEN
(STILL-LIFE WITH FLOWERS AND ORANGES)
- oil on board laid down on panel
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Neuere Kunst aus württembergischem Privatbesitz, 1973, no. 60, illustrated in the catalogue
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Brücke, Bauhaus, Blaue Reiter: Schätze der Sammlung Max Fischer, 2010, no. 26, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Painted circa 1909, Stillleben mit Blumen und Orangen is a wonderfully vivid composition that belongs to a highly innovative period of Jawlensky's œuvre. The years 1908 and 1909 mark an important turning point in his development as an artist. Jawlensky began to paint in a more expressive, and indeed Expressionistic, manner that would inform his work throughout his career. Working alongside Kandinsky and Münter and influenced by the richness of colour he witnessed in the works of Van Gogh and the Fauve artists, Jawlensky produced some of his most important works during this period.
Looking back at the pre-war years, the artist himself identified this phase in his career as crucial: 'I painted my finest paintings in powerful, glowing colours and not at all naturalistic or objective. I used a great deal of red, blue, orange, cadmium yellow and chromium-oxide green. My forms were strongly contoured in Prussian blue and came with tremendous power from an inner ecstasy... It was a turning point in my art. It was in these years up to 1914 just before the war that I painted my most powerful works' (quoted in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, op. cit., p. 31).
With its strong colours and vigorous brushwork, Stillleben mit Blumen und Orangen reflects the influence that Fauve painting made on the artist. In 1905 Jawlensky met Matisse, whose work, together with the art of Gauguin and Van Gogh exerted a major influence on his paintings at the time. In his memoirs, dictated to Lisa Kümmel in 1937, Jawlensky recalled: 'At the time I was painting mostly still-lifes because in them I could more easily find myself. I tried in these still-life paintings to go beyond the material objects and express in colour and form the thing which was vibrating within me, and I achieved some good results' (quoted in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, op. cit., p. 30).
The artist's main preoccupation at this time was the rejection of impressionistic copies of nature and a move towards expressing the emotions aroused by colour and form. Volker Rattemeyer writes: 'It was a quest for a form which sought to fuse the impressions received from nature (the external world) with the experiences of the internal world. This search for 'synthetism' - a key concept in the art theory formulated by Gauguin's successors - was to culminate in an art which presented perceived nature in all its beauty, cleansed, as it were, of all irrelevant forms. Adamant in its rejection of Impressionism, the artistic renewal postulated in these terms was expected to generate a painting which would be seen first and foremost as a surface on which colours and forms were arranged in such a way as to establish relationships (V. Rattemeyer, 'From the large figural representations to the 'Meditations' - Jawlensky's series', in Alexej von Jawlensky (exhibition catalogue), Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1994, p. 21).
After encountering the Fauves during the 1905 Salon d'Automne, where Jawlensky exhibited some of his works, Jawlensky's paintings began to show the influence of his French contemporaries. The present still-life not only reflects the artist's admiration for works by Matisse but also for Cézanne, whose paintings he saw in Paris at the same time. The simplified shapes and naïve imagery in Stillleben mit Blumen und Orangen can, however, also be traced back to indigenous Russian painting of the time. The present work is a beautiful culmination of all these different influences - the decorative pattern of the tablecloth is reminiscent of Matisse's work (fig. 1); the composition of the still-life indebted to similar works by Cézanne and the objects themselves seem to recall Russian paintings. Enriched by these influences, Stillleben mit Blumen und Orangen is a wonderful testimony to the artist's evolution of a personal style, marking the painter's transition as one of the most important Expressionist artists.
FIG. 1, Henri Matisse, Bouquet de fleurs pour le quatorze juillet, 1919, oil on canvas. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 5th May 2010
FIG. 2, Alexej von Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Blumen und Früchten, 1910, oil on board, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Berlin