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THE ANALYTICAL EYE: THE BRANCO WEISS COLLECTION

Alexej von Jawlensky
ABSTRAKTER KOPF: TRAGIK (ABSTRACT HEAD: TRAGIC)
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18

THE ANALYTICAL EYE: THE BRANCO WEISS COLLECTION

Alexej von Jawlensky
ABSTRAKTER KOPF: TRAGIK (ABSTRACT HEAD: TRAGIC)
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London

Alexej von Jawlensky
1864 - 1941
ABSTRAKTER KOPF: TRAGIK (ABSTRACT HEAD: TRAGIC)
signed A.J. (lower left) and dated II 28 (lower right); dated 1928 and inscribed N.101 on the reverse
oil on board
42 by 32.5cm.
16 1/2 by 12 3/4 in.
Painted in February 1928.
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Provenance

Galka E. Scheyer, Braunschweig, New York & California (acquired from the artist in 1928; returned to the artist)
Kunstkabinett Klihm, Munich (acquired from the artist)
Redfern Gallery, London
Galerie Alex Vömel, Düsseldorf (acquired by 1959)
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 17th May 1978, lot 65
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner

Exhibited

Hollywood, Braxton Gallery, Jawlensky, 1930, no. 41
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, The Blue Four. Jawlensky and Paul Klee, 1931, probably no. 35 (titled Tragic)
Frankfurt, Frankfurter Kunstkabinett & Munich, Kunstkabinett Klihm, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1954, no. 42a
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1957, no. 39, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Tragic Head)

Literature

Clemens Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 324, illustrated p. 206 (titled Inneres Schauen)
Bruno E. Werner, Die zwanziger Jahre, Munich, 1962, illustrated p. 35
Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1971, no. 247, listed p. 124
Wener Haftmann, Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert 2, Munich, 1980, no. 751, illustrated p. 300
Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky & Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London, 1992, vol. II, no. 1289, illustrated in colour p. 451

Catalogue Note

Jawlensky’s mature work was dominated by several series of paintings on the theme of the human face, throughout which his treatment of the features becomes increasingly stylised and abstracted. The present work belongs to the series of Abstract Heads, characterised by a grid of predominantly horizontal and vertical lines and brightly painted blocks of pigment. The typically long, U-shaped face with a strong symmetrical structure was first conceived in 1918, and Jawlensky worked on this series until 1935. A growing interest in Indian philosophy and the life of Indian yogis appears to have a strong influence on the series, as suggested by the meditative closed eyes and the overall reduction of the composition to the purest pictorial elements of colour and line. Gradually abandoning the signs of individuality and character, and focusing on the formal elements in his painting, in his mature work, such as Abstrakter Kopf: Tragik, Jawlensky arrived at a style through which he was able to convey a sense of harmony and universal spirituality.


By employing anonymous portraits to express the power and impact of colour, 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, op. cit., 1971, p. 12). Another important influence on Jawlensky’s form of abstraction 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, with which he became acquainted in 1910, 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’ (ibid., p. 14).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London