Sale: 545 / Evening Sale, Dec. 08. 2023 in Munich Lot 9

Alexej von Jawlensky
Abstrakter Kopf (Konstruktiver Kopf), 1933.
Oil on cardboard
€ 200,000 - 300,000

$ 210,000 - 315,000

Abstrakter Kopf (Konstruktiver Kopf). 1933.
Oil on cardboard.
Lower left monogrammed and lower right dated. Inscribed with the dedication "Für Frau Dora Ritschl mit Verehrung" on the reverse. There also signed and dated "1934". 42.5 x 32.2 cm (16.7 x 12.6 in).

• Owing to the warm and earthen palette, this is an exceptionally beautiful work from the important series of the "Abstract Heads".
• As in a constructivist painting, Jawlensky conceived this composition from basic geometric shapes and straight lines.
• Made at the peak of the "Abstract Heads", the work, in maximum reduction to clear forms, marks the transitions to the "Meditations"

PROVENANCE: Collection of Dorothea "Dora" Ritschl, neé Nötzel, Wiesbaden (gifted from the artist in 1934, with a dedication on the reverse and the note "Eigent. Ritschl").
Presumably Otto Ritschl Collection, Wiesbaden (inherited from the above in 1958).
Karlheinz Gabler Collection, Frankfurt am Main (acquired from the above in 1959, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett, Stuttgart).
Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Düsseldorf (acquired in 1968, Lempertz, Cologne).
Private collection North Rhine-Westphalia.
Ever since family-owned.

EXHIBITION: Ausstellung deutscher und französischer Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts. Gemälde, Plastik, Aquarelle, Handzeichnungen, Galerie Wilhelm Grosshennig, Düsseldorf, November 10, 1968 - January 31, 1969 (fig., p. 77).

LITERATURE: Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky, Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej Jawlensky. Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. II (1914-1933), Munich 1992, p. 489, no. 1435 (fig. of front and rear)
Clemens Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne 1959, cat. no. 379 (titled "Konstruktiver Kopf", fig., p. 254).

Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett Roman Norbert Ketterer, Stuttgart, 34th auction, Moderne Kunst, November 20/21, 1959, lot 302 (titled "Konstruktiver Kopf", fig., plate 117, with a fragmentarily preserved label and with inscriptions on the reverse).
Kunsthaus Lempertz, Cologne, 499th auction, Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts, May 30, 1968, lot 354 (fig., plate 3).
Galerie Wolfgang Ketterer, Munich, 3rd auction, Moderne Kunst, June 8 - 10, 1970, lot 624 (fig., p. 137).
Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky u. Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky. Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London 1992, vol. II, cat. no. 1435, pp. 489f. (fig., p. 489).

Called up: December 8, 2023 - ca. 17.16 h +/- 20 min.

The portrait
The painterly work of Alexej von Jawlensky is inextricably linked with the portrait. Initially in a realistic post-impressionism, which was soon followed by an Expressionism characterized by intense colors, to finally culminate in the contemplative paintings of a supersensual spirituality, with the Meditations as prime examples. It is the same motif of an abstract head that follows a pictorial scheme in terms of surface and contour that led Jawlensky to visual perfection through a selective exploration of the spiritual. In ever new approaches to the face behind the portrait - the icon – Jawlensky created a unique document of this endeavor that is unrivaled in the history of painting in the first half of the 20th century. The observer gets an idea of the almost religious immersion of the devout painter in a distanced and subtle way, it is faintly reminiscent of Orthodox icon, which sees a visual message of salvation in the schematic spiritualized portrait. But Jawlensky went a lot further. His real quest for a painterly mastery of this difficult subject became already clear in the ‘Variations’. Thus Jawlensky's Meditations can be seen and fathomed under different aspects. On the one hand, by their decidedly painterly expression, but on the other hand also by their spiritual-religious claim, which to Alexej von Jawlensky was the essential message of his works.

The challenging 1930s
In the difficult period of the early 1930s, the artist not only depended on the support of the "Jawlensky Society", which the Frankfurt painter, collector and gallery owner Hanna Bekker vom Rath, a close friend since 1927, had initiated in 1929, but also on the sales efforts of Emilie Esther Scheyer, who lived mainly in the USA from 1924. Nicknamed Emmy by most, Jawlensky would affectionately call her "Galka" (Russian for jackdaw) because of her pitch-black hair. Jawlensky met the Jewish art dealer and collector in Switzerland as early as in 1916, when he was in exile after his expulsion from Germany with the onset of the First World War. At the time this work was made, he lived in relative seclusion in his Wiesbaden apartment as he had already been suffering from recurrent arthritis for several years, which immensely restricted his freedom of movement and at times even confined him to bed. From 1933 onward, he was also banned from exhibiting his work in Germany in the face of the increasing xenophobia. In the 1930s, which were difficult for financial and health reasons, his close friendship with Emmy Galka Scheyer proved to be a real blessing in times of need. Jawlensky wrote to her in 1932, "I suffer a lot, but I also live - I don't always lie down. I work sitting on my bed. The only thing I have - work. But will, strength, nerves and ecstasy are necessary but difficult to maintain in my condition. But I have will and love, I love art above all. [..] I talk to God, I pray to him, in my works. [..] I have very beautiful paintings. Some are works of art. They emanate an incredibly strong secret life. And they are very beautiful." (quoted from: ex. cat. Die Blaue Vier, Kunstmuseum Bern/Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf, 1997-1998, p. 77).

Galka Scheyer and "Die Blaue Vier" (The Blue Four)
Because of her passion for modern art, Galka Scheyer became active as an agent for Jawlensky, Lyonel Feininger, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee from 1924 on, trying to establish them on the American art market as a group of artists called "Die Blaue Vier". She organized lectures and exhibitions and actually managed to sell a total of almost 60 oil paintings, as well as some watercolors and lithographs between 1925 and 1940. With the delicate cool colors that reflect the title, the work, being a particularly aesthetically pleasant example of the "Abstract Heads", documents the conscious turn, accelerated by Jawlensky's illness, towards an increasingly consistent abstraction, from which he would then conceive the formally even freer and quieter "Meditations" over the following years. Galka Scheyer was enthusiastic about the art of the "Blue Four", and especially raved about Jawlensky's heads: "Jawlensky transposed the human head as such into a language of abstract life, takes it out of its earthly existence in order to manifest the soul and the spirit. The new laws he has found in the process are mathematical. He has taken the laws of the other arts into his paintings: architecture in the balances of colors, music in the tonal rhythm of colors, dance as the line of colors, sculpture as the form of colors, poetry as the content or word of the proclamation of colors, but painting as a symphonic summary" (quoted from: Clemens Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne 1959, p. 106). Jawlensky's connection to Weimar was strengthened by Emmy Scheyer. In addition to the search for an elementary pictorial truth, which is evident in the constructive structure of the works, the art of these four friends also had a basic mystical tendency in common. While Kandinsky sought the "great spiritual" in art, Klee wanted to liberate art from the task of imitation: "Art does not reproduce what is visible, it makes visible."

From the portrait to the 'abstract' heads
The 'abstract' heads that Jawlensky developed from the portraits in the twenties are characterized by constructive elements that vary the basic forms of circle, triangle and rectangle. Jawlensky's work thus corresponds to the design principles that also underlie the teachings of the Bauhaus. Oskar Schlemmer's building reliefs, for example, come to mind. Aided by a new technique of painting, the heads appear eminently sculptured: The colors are no longer of a delicate translucency; they are densely and opaquely applied with a blunt brush, creating a compact and at the same time richly nuanced surface effect. The U-shape of the face is only indicated by sensitively shaded hues. The circular segment repeating the curve of the chin shimmers like a bright light reflection. To the left and right of the cheeks, a delicate light trace of color runs down to the lower edge of the picture, a reminiscence of the Byzantine-influenced “Heilandsgesichter” (Savior Faces) faces of the 1920s. The right line of the eyebrows rises in front of the triangle of the forehead like the narrow crescent of the moon above the closed horizontal eyes, while the circular shape, glowing in faint red, in the lower left to the side of the nose line, recalls the evening sun sinking behind the horizon.

In its abstraction, Jawlensky succeeded in visualizing what he strove for in the fulfillment of his pictorial idea. Clemens Weiler wrote: "In 1918, with the head 'Urform', Jawlensky stylized the face even more and, in a sense, reduced it to a formula, but not a dead one, rather one filled with life." (Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky, Köpfe - Gesichter - Meditationen, Hanau 1970, p. 20). With trust in the formula that had once been attained, the magic of color comes to the artist's aid. Like the "Meditations" that followed from 1934, the 'abstract' heads are an expression of being deeply rooted in religion in search of the purity of the transcendent, which points beyond the agony of everyday life. Jawlensky found his way back to the origins of Russian art, the icons, whose expression, devoid of any individuality, accommodate his idea of the archetype. The present work represents an exceptionally fine example of this important series of works. [CH/MvL]

Buyer's premium and taxation for Alexej von Jawlensky "Abstrakter Kopf (Konstruktiver Kopf)"
This lot can be purchased subject to differential or regular taxation.

Differential taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 32 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 27 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 22 % and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
The buyer's premium contains VAT, however, it is not shown.

Regular taxation:
Hammer price up to 800,000 €: herefrom 27 % premium.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 800,000 € is subject to a premium of 21% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 800,000 €.
The share of the hammer price exceeding 4,000,000 € is subject to a premium of 15% and is added to the premium of the share of the hammer price up to 4,000,000 €.
The statutory VAT of currently 19 % is levied to the sum of hammer price and premium. As an exception, the reduced VAT of 7 % is added for printed books.

We kindly ask you to notify us before invoicing if you wish to be subject to regular taxation.