Alexej von Jawlensky
- Alexej von Jawlensky
- MÄDCHEN MIT ROTER SCHLEIFE
GIRL WITH RED RIBBON
- oil on board
Private Collection (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 4th December 1968, lot 80)
Maurice & Vivienne Wohl, Switzerland (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Christie's, London, 4th February 2008, lot 4)
Sale: Christie's, London, 4th February 2009, lot 29
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Artist's Handlist, listed as 'D1 Mädchen mit roter Schleife'
Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky & Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil paintings, Volume One 1890-1914, London, 1991, no. 396, illustrated p. 319
Pulsating with vibrant colour and rich detail, Mädchen mit roter Schleife exemplifies Jawlensky's talents as a key figure of German Expressionism. This powerful composition dates from 1911, the beginnings of the artist's involvement with the Blaue Reiter group and reflects the varied stylistic concerns that preoccupied the artist and the German avant-garde during the early 20th century (figs. 1, 2 & 3). Jawlensky would always return to the face as a means to explore the range of human emotion throughout his career. The artist preferred anonymous titles for his works so that he could express objectively the power and impact of colour: '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 C. Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1971, p. 12).
In 1911, Jawlensky was living in Munich and working closely with fellow Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky of the independent artist group known as 'Neue Künstlervereinigung'. One year later Kandinsky founded Der Blaue Reiter, an arts periodical that promoted the ideas of this new group and expounded on the value of colour 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 colour patches and strong black outlines. The present work is a captivating example of his new style and illustrates the concerns of this wave of German Expressionism.
Looking back at the pre-war years, the artist himself identified this phase in his career as crucial: 'I painted my finest... figure 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 very 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 'Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel, 1937', in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, op.cit., p. 31). This range of bright vivid colours is present in Mädchen mit Schleife: the green blue background is slightly cool in relation to the magnificent fiery reds of the girl's cheeks, ribbon and details of her collar. Consequently the background appears to recede as the figure projects forward. A further striking colour combination occurs in the yellow-orange planes of her forehead and the bold rich-blue palette in the girl's sailor-like dress.
In both its subject matter and style of execution, the present work draws on a rich tradition of modernist painting, including the art of, amongst others, van Dongen and Matisse (fig. 4). The short, thick brush-strokes and the juxtaposition of brighter and cooler tones reflect the influence of van Gogh and Cézanne. In 1905, Jawlensky's works were exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris alongside those of the Fauve artists, whose work exerted the strongest influence on the development of the artist's style in the following years. His abandonment of the representational function of colour in favour of a more spontaneous, expressive one is strongly reminiscent of Matisse's portraits.
The extent of the artist's indebtedness to the Fauve artists and their ideas is readily apparent in a famous letter: 'My temperament having led me to colour, it is this that I entrust with the task of reproducing my ideas and emotions as inspired by the nature I find around me. But the thing which never leaves me and which leads me through all the experiences of an artist's life is the thought that life is the object of creative art neither in its dead, material aspect nor in the rigid form of moral reflections. Art is there to reproduce the things which are not, which at most have only a potential existence... To reproduce these things that are there without being, to reveal them to others by allowing them to pass through the passion which I feel for them... that is the goal of my life as an artist' (quoted in Clemens Weiler, ibid., p. 105).
Mädchen mit roter Schleife was originally part of a double-sided painting that was divided into two works as was the artist's intention according to his handlist. The painting originally on the recto was Helene (see Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky & Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil paintings, Volume One 1890-1914, London, 1991, no. 396, illustrated p. 319).
Fig. 1, Alexej von Jawlensky, Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut), circa 1910, oil on board laid down on canvas. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 5th February 2008
Fig. 2, Alexej von Jawlensky, Mädchen mit Pfingstrosen, circa 1909, oil on board, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
Fig. 3, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fränzi vor geschnitztem Stuhl, 1910, oil on canvas, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Fig. 4, Henri Matisse, Madame Matisse. La raie verte, 1905, oil on canvas, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Fig. 5, Alexej von Jawlensky, Kind mit grünem Gesicht, 1910, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago