JAWLENSKY Alexej von
( 1864-1942). Russian painter; born at Souslovo near Tver; died at Wiesbaden. Giving up his career as an officer in the Imperial Guard to become a painter, Jawlensky studied from 1889 on in Moscow at the Academy and with Répine, and, beginning in 1896, in Munich at Anton Azbe's school, where he met Kandinsky. From 1902 on he worked alone. With Kandinsky, Kubin, Gabriele Münter and others he founded the New Association of Munich Artists in 1909. Though he did not join in the Blaue Reiter exhibitions, he was in close agreement with the aims of that movement. During the war Jawlensky lived in Switzerland ( Saint-Prex, Zurich, Ascona) and, in 1921, settled at Wiesbaden. In 1924, with Kandinsky, Klee and Feininger, he formed the Four Blues Group, which exhibited in Germany and America. At Munich he was influenced by Western art. Cézanne and Van Gogh impressed him and spurted him on in his search for a greater, simpler and more expressive form. A stay, in 1905, in Brittany and Provence liberated his gifts as a colourist, and his meeting with Matisse helped him to find his way. So the composition of his pictures of 1909, with their large flat masses of pure, bright colour, is related to Matisse's work. But whereas Matisse's line is dynamic and active, Jawlensky's passively outlines the masses of colour with a rich, sensual building up of the matière. In his frank, exuberant art the colours seem to sing with an earthy force and expressive primitive violence which recall Russian folk art. Jawlensky painted some landscapes but, more often, heads and half-length figures whose powerful vitality, in the work he did between 1911 and 1914, is concentrated in an even simpler and more monumental form. During the First World War Jawlensky's art underwent a great transformation. The road which led from his prewar painting to the Variations on a landscape of Saint-Prex, in colours now more delicate, and from there to Mystic Heads ( 1917). to Visions of the Saviour ( 1919) and the Abstract Heads of later years, was that of spirituality. The human face became the only theme which interested him, and its essential architecture -- the cross of the nose and the arch of the eyebrows, the mouth, the oval of the chin, the forehead -- determined the symbolic composition of the picture, a new form of iconography stamped with a profound, mystical religious sense. 'Art is nostalgia for God', Jawlensky often said. Enclosed within the linear structure which it stresses, colour now burned with a rarer and more secret flame. Light and transparent until 1935, it darkened in his last works as the painter, in his life, as well as in his art, found once more the way to the faith of his childhood.
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