Sale: 550 / Evening Sale, June 07. 2024 in Munich Lot 38

Alexej von Jawlensky
Spanische Tänzerin, 1909.
Oil on cardboard
€ 7,000,000 / $ 7,560,000
€ 8,338,000 / $ 9,005,040

(incl. surcharge)
Spanische Tänzerin. 1909.
Oil on cardboard.
Signed and dated in the upper left. 100 x 69.5 cm (39.3 x 27.3 in).
With the expressionist Murnau landscape from the same year on the reverse. Jawlensky also used this highly abstract landscape motif in a smaller format in the painting “Murnauer Landschaft”, today part of the collection of the 'Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus', Munich (Murnauer Landschaft, 1909, 50.4 x 54.5 cm, catalogue raisonné no. 283). [JS].

• Jawlensky's portraits from 1909 and 1910 are considered milestones of European Modernism.
• “Spanish Dancer” - a masterpiece of unbridled expressionist quality, comparable to Jawlensky's famous “Portrait of the Dancer Aleksandr Sakharov” (1909, Lenbachhaus Munich).
• Almost all of the paintings from this short creative phase that is characterized by strong colors are owned by international museums today.
• Alongside “Girl with Peonies” (Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal) and “Red Lips” (lost), this is the largest painting from this important work phase.
• Both sides were painted during Jawlensky's best creative period: the reverse shows a bright and highly abstract Murnau landscape from 1909.
• Shortly after it was made, it became part of the important modern art collection of Josef Gottschalk in Düsseldorf, and remained in the family for over nine decades.
• The “Blue Rider” is currently honored with a comprehensive exhibition at the Tate Modern (until October 2024)

Export of the work from Germany will be possible.

PROVENANCE: Josef Gottschalk Collection, Düsseldorf ( possibly acquired from Flechtheim in 1919, until 1941).
Emma Gottschalk Collection, Düsseldorf ( inherited from the above in 1941, until 1954).
Private collection Rhineland ( inherited from the above in 1954, family-owned until 2017: Galerie Thomas).
Galerie Thomas, Munich (2017).
Private collection Europe (acquired from the above in 2017).

EXHIBITION: Possibly: Auf dem Wege zur Kunst unserer Zeit. Vorkriegsbilder und Bildwerke, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, Düsseldorf Königsallee, July 27 - August 16, 1919, cat. no. 65 ( not illustrated).
Öffentliche Ausstellung der Sammlung Gottschalk, Glücksburger Straße 2, Düsseldorf, 1946/47 (without a catalog).
Alexej von Jawlensky. El paisaje del rostro, Fundación Mapfre, Madrid, February 9 - May 9, 2021, cat. no. 18, p. 290 (with full-page color illu. on p. 120).

LITERATURE: Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky, Angelica Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky. Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, vol. 1: 1890-1914, Munich 1991, no. 239 (illustrated in black and white on the front and back).
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Cf. on the landscape on the reverse: Alexej von Jawlensky-Archiv (ed.), Reihe Bild und Wissenschaft. Forschungsbeiträge zu Leben und Werk Alexej von Jawlenskys, vol. 3, Ascona 2009, pp. 150-151 (fig. 14, reverse).
Düsseldorf Municipal Archives, no. 0-1-4-22016.0000, “Modern Art” collection of Emma Gottschalk, pp. 563-565 (on the exhibition of the Gottschalk Collection, 1946/47).
Düsseldorf Municipal Archives, no. 0-1-4-3907.0000, Gottschalk Painting Collection, p. 165 (on the exhibition of the Gottschalk Collection, 1946/47).

"There are only very few paintings by Alexej von Jawlensky showcasing this level of quality, and most of them have been museum-owned for many decades. [..] The 'Spanish Dancer' is one of those few exceptional Jawlensky paintings that have made for the artist's worldwide fame today, just as they caused a sensation and provided inspiration back then."
Roman Zieglgänsberger
Modern Art Curator, Museum Wiesbaden

Enchanting opulence and a delicate play of colors
Alexej von Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" from 1909

Paintings of this quality by the painter Alexej von Jawlensky are few and far between, and most of those that exist have been in museums for many decades, where they are usually among the highlights of the respective collection. Upon the first encounter with "Spanish Dancer", one can sense almost physically that it is absolutely on a par with "Portrait of the Dancer Aleksandr Sakharov" (1909, Lenbachhaus, Munich), "Young Girl with Peonies" (1909, Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal), "Helen with Colored Turban" (1910, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) or "Lady with a Fan" (1910, Museum Wiesbaden). The "Spanish Dancer" is simply one of those few masterpieces that account for Jawlensky's worldwide fame today just as much as they caused a sensation and inspired contemporaries back then.

Apart from the fact that it is one of Jawlensky's largest paintings with impressive dimensions of 101 by 70 centimeters, it also combines the two most important motifs of his renowned creative phase before World War I: Ever since he had made the picture "Helene in Spanish Costume" in 1901/02, the motif of the Spanish woman has played a key role his art. On the one hand, he portrays women as strong and spirited, but at the same time - not mutually exclusive - he works out their tender and sensitive nature.

In "Spanish Dancer", the artist combined the two aspects in a particularly elaborate manner. The never waning painterly appeal, the powerful, mutually amplifying colors, and a formal structure of straight diagonals, curves and counter-curves umderline this great fervor. The tilted head, the closed eyes, the calm posture (including the self-contained silhouette) pleasantly counteract the "loudness" and add this very decisive meditative moment to the picture.
The exquisitely executed wide open fan - Jawlensky's second most fascinating motif in the painting - that the "Spanish Dancer" holds obliviously in front of her is the icing on the cake. The composition's enchanting opulence, paired with Jawlensky's characteristic supreme painterly vigor, is countered by the extraordinarily delicate play of colors in the fan's mosaic appearance. The fan, which appears to be studded with shiny pearls, lacks any kind of coquettishness despite its splendour, it seems as if it was both protected and highlighted by its surrounding.
Ultimately, this is what distinguishes Jawlensky's art, an art that pushes the boundaries of the visual realms at every moment and uses opposing, subtly interwoven soothing elements - both in terms of form and content, yielding sophisticated and expressive masterpieces that never loose any of their appeal, no matter how often they are viewed. In this sense, the "Spanish Dancer" is nothing less than a prime example.

Dr. Roman Zieglgänsberger
Member of the scientific advisory board of the Alexej von Jawlensky-Archive in Muralto/Switzerland
Modern Art Curator, Museum Wiesbaden

"Spanish Dancer" - An ecstatic and exuberant expressionist masterpiece
Jawlensky had reached his absolute creative peak in 1909: He painted his unusually large-scale "Spanish Dancer" in an almost intoxicating array of colors and a bold and free flow. It was during the two years of 1909 and 19010, right before the "Blaue Reiter" was founded, that Jawlensky attained painterly strength in his expressionist portraits that would lead to the creation of iconic highlights of European Modernism.
It is the fervent color contrasts, the expressive and seductive pose, and the strict formal stylization that make Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" an inimitable expressionist masterpiece. In terms of painterly quality and art-historical significance, this one-of-a-kind composition is absolutely at eye level with Jawlensky's other key pieces from this brief creative phase. Works that are almost exclusively museum-owned today.
Along with the "Spanish Dancer", the paintings "Portrait of the Dancer Aleksandr Sakharov" (Lenbachhaus, Munich) and "Schokko with Red Hat" (Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio), both of which were also painted in 1909, are similar in terms of their colorfulness, expressiveness, and radiance, which is why they are also regarded as highlights of Expressionism today. These important creations by Alexei Jawlensky, just like our "Spanish Dancer", exude an aura that continues to put us under a spell to this day.

"I painted [...] large figurative works in intense, glowing colors, absolutely not naturalistic and realistic. I used a lot of red, blue, orange, cadmium yellow, chrome oxide green. I contoured the forms in a very strong Prussian blue and they emanated a powerful inner ecstasy [...] This was the most pivotal moment in my art. During those years up until [...] the war, I painted my most powerful works [...]." (Alexej von Jawlensky, Lebenserinnerungen, 1937)

In these decisive years of 1909/10, Jawlensky took a step of seminal significance for both modern art in general, and his own oeuvre in particular. He liberated the expressive color from the constraints of nature and staged it within the formal framework of an entranced stylization of the human face. While Wassily Kandinsky sought the maximum liberation of color in landscape in the following years, and the young Franz Marc turned to an enraptured animal world, Jawlensky entirely focused on the portrait from 1909 onward.
The motif of an eccentric movement as we find it in his celebrated "Portrait of the Dancer Aleksandr Sakharov", is taken to a new dimension in our "Spanish Dancer". In addition to the vibrant color contrast of the bright orange-red dress against the steel-blue background, the fan's liberated colors and an incarnate that ranges from green to yellow and purple tones, it is, above all, the triangular upper body shaped from diagonals determining the composition that accounts for the incredibly expressive tension that Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" evokes.
Jawlensky drew inspiration for this extraordinarily strong and self-contained, yet introverted pose from his fascination with modern dance. The artist became acquainted with the avant-garde dancer Aleksandr Sakharov in the circle around the Schwabing Salon of his partner, the painter Marianne von Werefkin, no later than 1905. Werefkin's salon on Giselastrasse was a popular meeting place for avant-garde artists and bohemians at the time, offering its visitors stimulating exchange in those years. Another decisive factor for the choice of motif in "Spanish Dancer" must have been a general enthusiasm for Spain in Europe in the context of the successful première of Georges Bizet's opera "Carmen" in Paris (1875).

Helene the "Spanish Dancere" - A sensually charged display of female beauty
The emotional depths that Jawlensky explores with maximum expressiveness in "Spanish Dancer" are charged with exoticism, passion, vigor, and tragedy. He presents the dancer as an exposed, dramatic figure at the end of a passionate dance in full concentration and elegiac relief. Jawlensky, a bon vivant in every respect, had already been living in a calamitous ménage-à-trois with Marianne von Werefkin and their young maid Helene Nesnakomoff, who gave birth to their son Andreas in 1902, when he painted "Spanish Dancer" in 1909, elevating it to an iconic stylization of female beauty. While the somewhat older, highly educated, and influential artist Marianne von Werefkin, with whom Jawlensky was living since he had moved to Munich in 1896, was primarily his intellectual partner, his young lover Helene, whom he did not marry until 1922 after he had finally broken up with Werefkin, provided necessary emotional stimuli during these years. Jawlensky's first painted homage to the then very young Helene was the impressionist picture "Helene in Spanish Costume" (Museum Wiesbaden) from 1901/02. Henceforth, she would not only be Jawlensky's lover but also his preferred model. In the portraits he made of her, he increasingly abandoned pure portraiture and created stylized heads characterized by atmospheric colors, culminating in the renowned "Barbarian Princess (Head of a Young Woman)" (1912, Osthaus Museum Hagen).
Was it perhaps Helene - in the bloom of youth in her early twenties - who inspired the much older man to paint our highly emotional "Spanish Dancer"? Does the artist make us witness to that very erotic feeling that Jawlensky had for his young lover Helene in the art-historically seminal year of 1909?
Looking at contemporaneous works demonstrably based on Helene as a model, the striking red frilled blouse, and the Spain motif that he had already used for a Helene portrait in 1901/02, help us to identify her as a model for the present work, too. The facial features and the highly concentrated expression of the sitter in "Helene with Colored Turban" (1910, Guggenheim Museum, New York) also show clear parallels, while, unlike our "Spanish Dancer", the painting has a calmer and more contemplative character. Jawlensky's sensually charged depiction of Helene as the "Spanish Dancer", on the other hand, is deeply imbued with the emotional turmoil of its creator; it is a masterful presentation of femininity, a progressive liberation from the shackles of artistic and social conventions of the time.

The year 1909 - Pinnacle of Modernism and Jawlensky's leading role in the "Blue Rider"
Jawlensky spent the summer of 1909 - the year that saw the birth of our "Spanish Dancer" - together with Helene, their son Andreas (passed off as a nephew in public), and Marianne von Werefkin in Murnau, where they painted with Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter in a lively exchange. A summer that was pivotal both for Jawlensky's ill-fated love triangle with Werefkin and Helene, as well as for his artistic development. The work of all four artists at that time underwent a radical change, as they gradually abandoned Impressionist and late Impressionist styles and turned towards a synthetic and more expressive color painting. Jawlensky had already seen the paintings of the Fauves and early works of Cubism in Paris on his trips to France in 1906 and 1907, and also became acquainted with works by Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso. These visual experiences made Jawlensky a progressive thinker within the Murnau artist community, and it was due to his impact that the styles of his fellow painters evolved towards a stronger autonomy of color and an overall more summarised conception of the surface. The liberation of color finally came about in Murnau in 1909, a process with crucial impact on German Expressionism and ultimately on the art of the "Blue Rider".
The fact that the reverse side of the painting "Spanish Dancer" bears one of these highly abstract landscapes from the seminal Murnau period is an incredibly fortunate coincidence. This fascinating view of the "Blue Land" in summer is exceptionally picturesque and appears to have been captured quite spontaneously. Jawlensky placed large purple shadows on a radiant pink road under a green and white sky, the colors - as in the "Spanish Dancer" - are juxtaposed in flat, pointed forms and bold contrasts.
"Translating nature into color according to the fire in my soul", was Jawlensky's highly emotional approach (Jawlensky, Lebenserinnerungen (1937), quoted from Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, 1890-1914, p. 30). An approach that also inspired Kandinsky and Münter in Murnau, where they boldly liberated themselves from the constraints of nature as it was perceived.
Just as Jawlensky developed the body of his "Spanish Dancer" from strictly diagonal and triangular shapes, he also composed the radiant "Murnau Landscape" on the reverse from strongly abstracted elements. A comparison with landscapes that fellow artists Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter created around the same time once more demonstrates how advanced Jawlensky's expressionist understanding of color and form was in 1909. In the same year, Jawlensky also executed this landscape motif in maximum abstraction in the small painting "Murnau Landscape", today part of the collection of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich.

Thus Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" is a powerful avant-gardist serendipity in two respects: An extraordinary portrait and a mesmerizing landscape from his best creative period that testify to his genius, his inimitable flair for the free use of form and color, and an audacious conviction to take painting to a new level, even though it was often met with disdain as outrageously progressive for the sheer impact of the colors.
In December 1909, the legendary first exhibition of the 'New Artists' Association Munich' took place at Galerie Thannhauser, an event torn to pieces in negative press reviews, as the colors in the works Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Werefkin and Münter exhibited egregiously deviated from nature. Fritz von Ostini, for example, wrote in the "Münchener Neueste Nachrichten" on December 9, 1909: "[...] As the founding pamphlet of the New Artists' Association Munich' explains, the coloristic orgies, this dissociation from nature, truthfulness and all sound skill reveal 'a pursuit of artistic synthesis'. Holy smokes [...]" (quoted from: Annegret Hoberg, Helmut Friedel, Der Blaue Reiter und das Neue Bild, Munich/London/New York 1999, p. 33).
The press fought furiously against a new kind of painting that had gone wild in the truest sense of the word, and the public railed, threatened the artists and spat on the paintings. The art that Jawlensky and his companions showcased in 1909 was far beyond what the tastes and aesthetic sensibilities of his contemporaries could handle. Today, however, their progressive artistic path, liberated from all conventions and pursued against all external resistance with courage and determination, is regarded as one of the most important chapters in the history of 20th-century art.
Jawlensky's painting "Spanish Dancer" with the "Murnau Landscape" on the reverse is not only one of these fascinating pinnacles of modern European art but also an exceptional example of the complex emotional expressiveness that lies at the heart of painting. In "Spanish Dancer", Jawlensky's relentless pursuit of artistic synthesis, a consummate fusion of visual and emotional impressions to create an overwhelming expressive painting, becomes particularly evident.
Today, paintings of comparable quality are almost exclusively museum-owned and hardly appear on the international auction market. Our "Spanish Dancer" has been part of an important private collection in the Rhineland for almost a century, and is now available on the auction market for the very first time. [JS/MvL]

The Josef Gottschalk Collection

In the case of the industrialist Josef Gottschalk, the question arises as to whether art historical research might have overlooked an important collector of international standing.
Who was Josef Gottschalk? Born in Düsseldorf in 1876 and raised in humble circumstances, Gottschalk worked his way up quickly, starting as a factory worker in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, he became a steel wholesaler in 1911. The defense industry's demand for steel in World War I helped Gottschalk to amass a huge fortune in just a few years, which also enabled him to compile such a remarkable art collection. In close contact with the Rhenish avant-garde luminaries such as Alfred Flechtheim, Johanna Ey, and Karl Nierendorf, as well as with artists such as Otto Dix and Walter Ophey, the collector found himself at the center of the modern art scene.

Highlights of the collection

The Gottschalk Collection, compiled between the end of World War I and the late 1920s, was entirely dedicated to the avant-garde: It comprised around 60 works by artists such as Kandinsky, Macke, Munch, Jawlensky, Pechstein, and Chagall, most of them in large formats. Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" was indisputably one of the most impressive paintings in this collection and remained in the family for around a century. The work remained in the family for around a century. August Macke's "Gartenrestaurant" (illu.) was also part of the Gottschalk Collection. Acquired from Herwarth Walden, he sold it to the Städtisches Museum in Aachen in 1927, from where it was confiscated as "degenerate" in 1937. Today it is at the Kunstmuseum Bern. The 1904 painting "Girl under the Apple Tree" by Edvard Munch (ill.), today in the Carnegie Museum of Arts in Pittsburgh, was also part of the collection.

August Macke, Gartenrestaurant, 1912, Oil on canvas,
Art museum Bern.

Wassily Kandinsky, Araber II, 1911, Oil on canvas,
Collection Mr. and Mrs. J. Seward Johnson, Princeton, New Jersey

Edvard Munch, Mädchen unter einem Apfelbaum, 1904,
Oil on canvas, Carnegie, Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Turning points

Nazi dictatorship marked a critical turning point. The collection soon had a reputation for being "degenerate", and due to their surname, which was also common among Jewish families, the regime increased the pressure on the family. Josef Gottschalk died in 1941, and the company's premises were destroyed in air raids soon after. However, the splendid art collection that also included Jawlensky's "Spanish Dancer" remained intact over the Nazi era. In 1946, the public 'Kunstsammlungen Düsseldorf' contacted the widow Emma Gottschalk in this regard. After inspecting the impressive holdings, the director requested to make the collection accessible to the public. Permission to set up a "museum" in a part of her house was obtained from the military government. In the course of this process, the director deemed the Gottschalk Collection to be "particularly significant", "as it contains major works by artists that were confiscated from public ownership by the former regime. The 'Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Düsseldorf' hereby confirm the exceptional artistic value of the collection and attach great importance to ensuring that it remains accessible to the public at its current location." (Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf 0-1-4-3907).

Alexej von Jawlensky
Spanische Tänzerin, 1909.
Oil on cardboard
€ 7,000,000 / $ 7,560,000
€ 8,338,000 / $ 9,005,040

(incl. surcharge)