Alexej von Jawlensky

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Jawlensky, 1905: 'Self-portrait', oil-painting on cardboard
Jawlensky, 1908: 'Summer evening / Sommerabend in Murnau', oil-painting on board; location: Lenbachhaus, Munich - quote of Gabriele Münter about his Murnau-period: 'But Jawlensky really was a devotee of the 'touche de peinture' of the French Fauvists.'
Jawlensky, 1909: 'Sitting woman / Sitzende Frau', oil-painting on cardboard; location unknown
Jawlensky, 1909-10: 'Schwebende Wolke / Floating Cloud', oil-painting on cardboard; current location: Norton Simon Museum, California, U.S.
Jawlensky, c. 1911: 'Woman's face', oil-painting on cardboard; current location: Gemeentemuseum The Hague, The Netherlands
Jawlensky, 1912: 'Portrait of a Woman', oil-painting on cardboard; current location: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, U.S.
Jawlensky, 1915: 'Frosty Day', oil-painting on paper on cardboard; current location: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. - quote of Jawlensky, 1914-15: '..something inside me prevented me from painting colourful, sensuous pictures. Suffering had changed my soul, telling me to find other forms and colours to express what was on my mind.'
Jawlensky, 1915: 'Red Path, St. Prex', oil-painting on paper on cardboard; location: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. - quote of Jawlensky about this period and place: 'It was very tiny, our house [in St. Prex ], and I had no room for 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 to sit at the window and quietly collect my thoughts and feelings.' '
Jawlensky, 1919: 'Saviour's face: Martyr / Heilandsgesicht: Märtyrer', oil on linen-finish paper laid down on board; location: unknown
Jawlensky, c. 1922: 'Inclined head with closed eyes / Geneigter Kopf mit geschlossenen Augen', watercolor-painting over drawing in pen and black ink on cream paper; current location: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Jawlensky, March 1923: 'Abstract Head: Autumn and Dying', oil-painting on artist board; location: Speed Art Museum, Kentucky, U.S.
Jawlensky, March 1931: 'Head / Głowa', oil-painting on textile; current location: Category:Museum of Art in Łódź, Poland - quote of Jawlensky, 12 June 1938: 'I painted 'faces' for many years. I sat in my studio and painted, and I did not need nature to prompt me. It was enough for me to immerse myself in myself, to pray and prepare my soul to attain a religious state..'
Jawlensky, 1937: 'Large Meditation: in thicket / Grosse Meditation: Im Dickicht', oil-painting on paper; location unknown - realted quote by Jawlensky in 1938: 'My art in the last period [till 1937, then Jawlensky couldn't paint any longer because of severe arthritis] has all been in small format, but my paintings have become even deeper and more spiritual.. ..And now I leave these small – but to me – important works to the future and to the people who love art.'

Alexej Georgewitsch von Jawlensky (March 13, 1864March 15, 1941) was a Russian Expressionist painter active in Germany, Munich in the 'Blaue Reiter / Blue Rider' and after 1914 in Switzerland, together with Marianne von Werefkin, many years his life-companion, till 1921.

Quotes of Jawlensky[edit]

  • This acquaintance [with Marianne Werefkin ] would change my life. I became a friend of hers, of this clever woman gifted with genius.
    • In his memoirs, 1936/41: Lebenserinnerungen (Memories), Alexej Jawlensky - Köpfe-GesichteMeditationen (Heads-Faces-Meditations), ed. Clemens Weiler (Hanau: H. Peters, 1970), p. 106
  • We had a very lovely place [in Ascona with his life-companion Marinanne Werefkin ] with a garden directly on the lake. It was on the edge of Ascona. Next to it began the Campagna [landscape], and this Campagna was enchantingly beautiful, like a dream.
    • In his memoirs, 1936/41: Lebenserinnerungen (Memories) p. 119; as quoted in Exile, the Avant-Garde, and Dada: Women Artists Active in Switzerland during the First World War [1], by Isabel Wünsche, p. 66
    • Jawlensky was very pleased with this move from Zurich to Ascona; Werefkin arranged this family's move from Zurich to Ascona after Jawlensky fell gravely ill with the Spanish flu. A few years later Jawlensky would leave here.
  • Perhaps you have heard that Baroness Werefkin died in February. It was a great blow to me. Yes, indeed, sooner or later we have to pay for our mistakes once made. And often so severely.
    • In his letter, 12 June, 1938 to P. Willibrord Verkade, as quoted by Bernd Fäthke in Leben und Werk, 1860- 1938, Bernd Fäthke, Prestel Verlag, 1980, ISBN 9783791308869; as quoted in 'Biography, Marianne Werefkin' [2] on the website Fembio, by Luise F. Pusch - transl. Joey Horsley, p. 19
  • I now began to search for a new path in art. It was a major task. I understood that I did not have to paint what I saw, not even what I felt, but only that which lived within me, in my soul. To put it in symbolic terms, it is like this: I felt within myself, within my breast, the keyboard of an organ and I had to make it resonate. And the nature that was in front of me served me only as a prompter. And that was a key that unlocked this organ and made it resonate. In the beginning it was very difficult. But little by little, it became easy for me to use colours and forms to find what was within my soul.
    • In his letter, 12 June, 1938 to P. Willibrord Verkade, as quoted in Alexej von Jawlensky, der Maler und Mensch, , Clemens Weiler; Wiesbaden 1955, pp. 39 ff
  • I painted these 'Variations' [of landscapes] for some years and then I found it necessary to find form for the face, because I had come to understand that great art can only be painted with religious feeling. And that, I could only bring to the human face. I understood that the artist must express through his art, in forms and colours, the divine in him. Therefore a work of art is God made visible and art is 'a longing for God'.
    I painted 'faces' for many years. I sat in my studio and painted, and I did not need nature to prompt me. It was enough for me to immerse myself in myself, to pray and prepare my soul to attain a religious state...
    • In a letter to the Dutch Fauvist painter Father Verkade, 12 June 1938; as quoted in Alexej Jawlensky, Jürgen Schultze; M. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1970, p. 39
  • So the years passed and I worked a great deal. And then I became ill and although I could still work, despite the fact that my hands became more and more rigid. I could no longer pick up the paintbrush and had to use both hands to do so, always with a great deal of pain. The format of my works became very small, and I also had to find a new technique. For three years I painted these small heads like a man possessed. Then I realized that I would soon have to stop working entirely: and that's what happened, too!
    • In a letter to the Dutch Fauvist painter Father Verkade, 12 June 1938; as quoted in Alexej Jawlensky, Jürgen Schultze; M. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1970, p. 54

Life Memories (1938)[edit]

Alexej von Jawlensky, Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, Rotterdam; exhibition catalog 25/9 – 27/11-1994 (a. o. his life quotes from 'Lebenserinnerungen' ['Life Memories'] he dictated late in his life, in 1938)

  • I was taken to see the World Exhibition in Moscow [in 1880]. I found it all very boring. But when I came to a section devoted to art – there were only paintings, and this was the first time of my life [Jawlensky was 16 years old] I had seen paintings – I was so deeply affected that it was a case of Saul becoming Paul. It was the turning point of my life. Even since then art has been my ideal, my holy of holiest, that for which my entire soul and my entire self yearn.
    • p. 20
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • From then on [1880] I used to go to the Tretyakov Gallery [in Moscow] every Sunday, arriving very early and staying there without eating until closing time at three o'clock. It was a tremendous experience for me, like going to church. Indeed, I felt as if I were in a temple.
    • p.274
    • from his Memories, in 'Catalogue Raisonné of the oil Paintings', ed. Maria Jawlensky, Angelica Jawlensky and Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky; published resp. in 1991, 1992, 1993
  • Since 1929 I have suffered from an extremely painful disease [arthritis deformans] which gets worse every year. Little by little my arms and hands have become stiff and bent and I have terrible pain. This stiffness in my elbows and wrists has tremendously hindered my painting and I have had to find a new technique. My art in the last period has all been in small format, but my paintings have become even deeper and more spiritual...
    • p. 23
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • Every artist works within a tradition. I am a native of Russia. My Russian soul has always been close to the art of old Russia, the Russian icons, Byzantine art, the mosaics in Ravenna, Venice, Rome, and to Romanesque art. All these artworks produced a religious vibration in my soul, as I sensed in them a deep spiritual language. This art was my tradition.
    • p. 24
    • quote from his letter to the National Socialist State Cultural administration, 1939 - to get permission to exhibit his art, which was turned down by the Nazi regime
  • In the Spring of 1911 Marianne von Werefkin [his former study-mate in Russia and in fact his life-comapnion for many years, but never married] Andrei, Helene and I went to w:Prerow on the Baltic [coast]. For me that summer meant a great step forward in my art. I painted my finest landscapes there as well as large 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. 'Der Buckel', 'Violetter Turban', 'Selbstporträt'.. ..were created in this way. It was a turning-point in my art. It was in these years, up to 1914, just before the war [World War 1.], that I painted my most powerful works, referred to as the pré-war works.
    • p. 77
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • At first I intended to carry on working in Saint-Prex [in Switzerland, circa 1914 – 1915] in the same way I had been working in Munich [the location of his Blaue Reiter / Blue Rider period]. But something inside me prevented me from painting colourful, sensuous pictures. Suffering had changed my soul, telling me to find other forms and colours to express what was on my mind.
    • p. 149
    • from: 'Köpfe, Gesichte, Meditationen', Clemens Weiler
  • I am now mainly painting faces and landscapes; I am obsessed day and night by the vision of faces and colours. And the spiritual vision is my mystical world.
    • p. 150
    • Quote of Jawlensky in a letter to his brother Dimitri, circa 1917/18
  • I knew that I must paint not what I saw, but only what was in me, in my soul. Figuratively speaking, it was like this: In my heart I felt as if there were an organ, which I had to sound. And nature, which I saw before me, only prompted me. And that was a key that unlocked this organ and made it sound.. .They are songs without words.
    • p. 186
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • I sat in my studio and painted, and did not need Nature as a prompter [is after 1921, when he painted the series 'Abstrakter Kopf' / 'Abstract Head']. I only had to immerse myself in myself, pray, and prepare my soul to a state of religious awareness. I painted many, many 'Faces'.
    • p. 186
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • It was very tiny, our house [ St. Prex ], and I had no room for 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 to sit at the window and quietly collect my thoughts and feelings. I had a bit of paint but no easel, so I went into Lausanne – twenty minutes on the train – and bought a small easel from a photographer.. .It was highly unsuitable for painting but for more than twenty years I have painted my best work on that little easel [in mainly small sizes].
    • p. 186
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
    • This small house was in St. Prex, in Switzerland, lake Genova, where Jawlensky concentrated himself on the view around his house for years – this was after 1914, when he and his wife Marianne von Werefkin departed from Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter in Murnau. Jawlensky painted here his more than 400 'Variations on a landscape theme', in St. Prex
  • My art in the last period [till 1937! Then Jawlensky couldn't paint any longer because of severe arthritis] has all been in small format, but my paintings have become even deeper and more spiritual, speaking purely through colour.. .And now I leave these small – but to me – important works to the future and to the people who love art.
    • p. 249
    • from: 'Lebenserinnerungen', 1938
  • When we had been in Ashenstovo [1873, located near the Prussian border]] a few days my mother took us children to see a famous Polish church, Kostjol, famous for its miraculous Madonna icon. This icon had three precious coats, one of gold, one of coral and one with pearls and diamonds.. .Many peasant men and women were were lying prostrate on the floor as if crucified, with their arms outstretched. It was very quiet. Suddenly a great blare of trumpets shattered the silence. Terribly frightened I saw the gold curtain open and the Madonna appear wearing a gold robe.
    • p.274
    • from his Memories, in 'Catalogue Raisonné of the oil Paintings', ed. Maria Jawlensky, Angelica Jawlensky and Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky; published resp. in 1991, 1992, 1993

Quotes about Alexej von Jawlensky[edit]

  • Three years [c. 1892-1895] passed in indefatigable care of his [Jawlensky's] mind and heart. Everything, everything that he received from me I pretended to take – everything that I poured into him I pretended to receive … so that he wouldn't feel jealous as an artist, I hid my art from him.
    • Marianne Werefkin, 1890's in Leben und Werk, 1860 - 1938, Bernd Fäthke, Prestel Verlag, 1980, ISBN 9783791308869; as quoted in 'BIOGRAPHY, Marianne Werefkin' [3] on the website Fembio, by Luise F. Pusch; transl. Joey Horsley
  • For four years already we sleep together. I remained a virgin, he [Jawlensky] became a virgin again. Between us sleeps our child - Art. It is the child who ensures our undisturbed sleep. Carnal desire has never once befouled our bed. We both want to remain unsullied, so that not a single impure thought could ever disturb the calm of our nights when we are so close to each other. And yet we love each other. Since we exchanged declarations of love many years ago we have not kissed once even for form's sake. He is everything for me, I love him as a mother, especially as a mother, as a friend, a sister, a wife, I love him as an artist and a friend. I am not his mistress and my tenderness has never had a passionate turn. Because of his love for me, he became a monk. He loves in me his art, and without me he'll die — and he has never enjoyed me as a woman.
    • Marianne Werefkin, late 1880's in Lettres a un inconnu: Aux sources de l'expressionnisme, ed. Gabrielle Dufour-Kowalska. Klincksieck, 1999. pp. 75-77 (Notebook I, pp. 29-30)
  • Here on our peninsula of Darss, we [ Marianne Werefkin and Jawlensky] still feel like we're on an expedition in search of provisions and artistic inspiration. Neither is to be found here. But there is an endless and splendid beach, delightful air, a sense of unlimited informality and weather unknown to us from our dear Bavaria: no thunderstorms, no steady rains, no cloudbursts. If Helen [the maid] can find the genius to cook something out of nothing, and we [Jawlensky and Marianne] to paint from nothing - then Prerow won't be half bad, provided that all remain healthy.
    • Marianne Werefkin, in a letter to Franz and Maria Marc, from OstSeebad w:Prerov, Baltic Sea, to Munich, 1911; as quoted in 'Marianne Werefkin in Prerow, 1911: The Periphery as Focus', [4] on the website Fembio, by Kornelia Röder and Antonia Napp - p. 45
    • This 'break' from Munich at the Baltic sea meant for both painters an important period with strong later consequences in their painting-styles
  • We [Marianne and Jawlensky] are living out in the country, in a house so small, that one can hardly turn around. Despite all we work both, since we have our colors and paint again.
    • Marianne Werefkin, in a letter to Herwarth Walden, from St Prex, Switzerland, May 28, 1915; Sturm-Archiv, Staatsbibliothek Berlin; as quoted in Exile, the Avant-Garde, and Dada: Women Artists Active in Switzerland during the First World War [5], by

Isabel Wünsche, p. 49

    • Marianne Werefkin and Alexei Jawlensky, living together in Munich till 1914, were classified as enemy aliens (both had the Russian nationality) and forced to leave Germany immediately at the outbreak of the World War I. They were able to rent a small apartment in St. Prex in Switzerland, a small fishermen's village on Lake Geneva
  • You are the painter of the human soul. I know of no other modern painter of the human soul.
    • from introduction of 'Memories of my sick hands' Zeidler Zeidler H. Rheumatol. 2011 Jun;70(4):336-57 H. Rheumatol. 2011 Jun;70(4):336-57
    • Galka E. Scheyer, in a letter to Jawlensky after 1927
    • Galka E. Scheyer was the second woman - after Werefkin - who stopped her own painting to promote Jawlensky's art. Later she became in the U.S. an important art-agent for more Blaue Reiter-artists
  • (Ich kann nicht Deutsch schreiben oder sprechen)... I can't speak or write German, but I'am overjoyed because I have bought one of your pictures. Now it is in me. I write music. You are my teacher.
    • John Cage, in a letter, early Februari 1935; as quoted in ‘The shape of the Future 3: Art’ in Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, by Kay Larson, Penguin 2012, p unknown
    • Cage bought one of the small 'Head' paintings of Jawlensky via his art-agent in the U.S. Galka E. Scheyer who showed Cage some paintings of Jawlensky, early 1935 and sold his choice very cheap for 25 dollars; Cage was than 25 years old and strongly inspired by images, as he told Scheyer and wrote Jawlensky
  • I shall never forget those inspiring days when you initiated me into the sacred world of art. I shall never forget you really did make me what I am today.
    • Galka E. Scheyer, in a letter from the U.S., 13 July, 1936; in Wünsche, p. 63.; as quoted by Darcy Tell, in 'The Art Lover: Galka Scheyer's Higher Calling', 2 Dec. 2010, [6]
  • They [ Kandinsky, Jawlensky and Klee, in their Der Blaue Reiter-period till 1914] were constantly arguing about art and each of them, at first, had his own ideas and his own style. Jawlensky was far less intellectual than Kandinsky or Klee and was often frankly puzzled by their theories. My 1908 portrait entitled 'Zuhören' ['Listening'] actually represents Jawlensky, with an expression of puzzled astonishment on his chubby face, listening to Kandinsky’s new theories of art.
    • Gabriele Münter in a late interview 1958; as quoted in 'Dialogues – conversations with European Artists at Mid-century' Edouard Roditi, Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, London, 1990, p. 117
  • .. we parted in 1914, when Kandinsky, being an enemy alien [because of the outbreak of World War 1. - he had a Russian nationality], had to flee from Germany to Switzerland, as did Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin too [Switzerland].. ..Ever since we parted in 1914, I have worked mainly by myself. After the First World War, here in Munich, we found that our Blue Rider group had broken up. Marc and Macke had both been killed [World War 1.], Kandinsky, Jawlensky and Marianne were no longer here; Bloch and Burliuk were in America. Besides.. ..we had always been individualists and out Blue Rider group never had a style of its own as uniform as that of the Paris cubists.
    • Gabriele Münter in a late interview, 1958; as quoted in 'Dialogues – conversations with European Artists at Mid-century' Edouard Roditi, Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, London, 1990, p. 121
  • Yes, we [= Marianne von Werefkin and Gabriele Münter shared very much the same tastes and ideas, when we lived together in this house (the 'Russian house' in Murnau]. She was extremely perceptive and intelligent, but Alexej von Jawlensky (Marianne's husband', but not married] didn’t always approve of her work.. ..Suddenly Jawlensky would pick on some tiny detail of one of Marianne’s best and most original pictures and exclaim: 'That patch of color, there, is laid on much too flat and smoothly. It’s just like old Riepin [Russian painter [[w:Ilya Repin], and former art teacher of them both]. Of course it was nonsense and he was only saying it to annoy her. But Jawlensky really was a devotee of the touche de peinture of the French Fauvists, rather than an innovator - a believer in a new kind of art of the future.
    • Gabriele Münter in a late interview 1958; as quoted in 'Dialogues – conversations with European Artists at Mid-century' Edouard Roditi, Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, London, 1990, p. 118-119
  • Why do you [= Marianne von Werefkin, herself] no longer work? Why work again? Faith has left me – the habit of putting myself into the background, has done the rest. Am I a true artist? Yes, yes, yes. Am I a woman? Alas. Yes, yes, yes. Are the two [Jawlensky and she] able to work as a pair? No, no, no. Who will take up the desires -?.. ..The work of my life, this talent [her love Jawlensky] that I protect with all my interest, with all my affection, it must be alone in the dwelling. Reason says, calm yourself. But the great passion in me, and my call to work, destroys all the calm acquisitions of my life.
    • Marianne von Werefkin, in her writings 'Lettres à un Inconnu, 1901 – 1905', Vol 1 'My beautiful One, My Unique!', Marianne von Werefkin, Museo Communale, Ascona; as quoted in Voicing our visions, - Writings by women artists, ed. by Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 132
  • ..Oh my dear friend [Jawlensky / 'The Unknown', in her Letters], you whose voice called me towards my beautiful past, oh how I love you because you are young, you serve the idea, you understand the beauty of a life devoted completely to abstraction. Oh the devil you have done me, and the good of this devil. There is an atrocious page in my existence.. .I am not a woman. Neither love nor the family satisfies me. I don’t like the baby. I detest the household. I love all works of the human genius, I adore art the beauties of nature and of the heart. The beautiful, the beautiful in all such as love and such as life.
    • Marianne von Werefkin, in her writings Lettres à un Inconnu, 1901 – 1905, Vol 1 'My beautiful One, My Unique!', Marianne von Werefkin, Museo Communale, Ascona; as quoted in "Voicing our visions, -Writings by women artists", ed. by Mara R. Witzling, Universe New York, 1991, p. 132
  • Although Marianne von Werefkin remained active in the avant-garde art community [in Munich], she took a ten-year hiatus from painting between 1896 and 1906. The break in artistic production has been traditionally attributed to the attention she gave to advancing Jawlensky's career, but it is also apparent that she needed the time to develop a new artistic language, as she moved away from the Realist style which had dominated her work in Russia.
    • Adrienne Kochmann, in Ambiguity of Home: Identity and Reminiscence in Marianne Werefkin's Return Home, c. 1909; [7]

External links[edit]

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