Alexei von Jawlensky

Born: 1864, Torzhok (Tver Province)
Died: 1941, Wiesbaden (Germany)

Painter, graphic artist, lithographer, writer. Born in Torzhok in Tver Province to Colonel Georgy Jawlensky of the Russian army and his second wife Alexandra Medvedeva (1864). Grew up at the family estate of Kuzlovo near the town of Vyshny Volochyok in the Valdai Hills of Tver Province (1864–69) and in the western borderlands of the Russian Empire, where his father was stationed (1869–73). Moved with his mother, brothers and sisters to Moscow (1874), where he studied at grammar school (1876–77), private school (1877–79) and the Alexander Military Academy (1879–84). Decided to take up art after seeing paintings at the Pan-Russian Exhibition of Art and Industry in Moscow (1882). Visited the Tretyakov Gallery and exhibitions, where he studied the works of Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin, but decided to continue a military career due to financial problems following the death of his father (mid-1880s). Served as an infantry lieutenant in the Samogitia Grenadier Regiment in Moscow (1884–96). Allowed to live outside the barracks and rented a room from an artist friend (1884–88), who introduced him to the landlord of the neighbouring house, who owned a collection of modern French painting. Secured a transfer from Moscow to St Petersburg (1890), where he joined the St Alexander Nevsky Regiment and passed the entrance exam for the Imperial Academy of Arts (1890). Studied under Bogdan Gottfried Willewalde, Ilya Repin, Pavel Chistyakov and Arkhip Kuinji (1890–92), but was disappointed with the conservative teaching methods at the Academy and dropped out (1893). Worked independently at the studio of Marianne von Werefkin, a private student of Ilya Repin, in the Peter and Paul Fortress (1893–94). Returned to his studies after the passing of reforms (1894), before finally deciding to abandon the Academy and continue his education in Munich (1896). Resigned from the army with the rank of senior lieutenant and travelled to Munich in the company of Igor Grabar, Dmitry Kardovsky and Marianne von Werefkin (1896). Rented a flat and studio with Marianne von Werefkin and their housekeeper, Hélène Nesnakomoff, at 23 Giselastraße in Munich (1896). Studied at Anton Ažbè’s private school, where he met Wassily Kandinsky, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky and Gabriele Münter (1896–99). Visited the third Venice Biennale (1899) and influenced by Anders Zorn and Impressionism (early 1900s). Had a son called André by Hélène Nesnakomoff, who secretly gave birth at the Schloss Anspacki in Lithuania, and pretended that the boy was his nephew to avoid upsetting Marianne von Werefkin (1902). Worked in a Pointillist style (1902–03). Influenced by Vincent van Gogh (1904–07), Henri Matisse (1905–11), Paul Cézanne (1906–07) and Paul Gauguin (1906–08). Painted portraits of friends, still-lifes in his studio and landscapes on trips to Reichertshausen (1904), Füssen and Carantec (1905–06) and Wasserburg am Inn (1906). Contributed ten Breton studies painted in a Fauvist manner to Sergei Diaghilev’s Exposition de l’Art russe at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (1906). Worked with Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter and Marianne von Werefkin in the village of Murnau (1908), where he studied the traditional art of Bavarian folk painting on glass and painted landscapes combining elements of Fauvism and Cloisonnism. Cofounded the Neue Kunstlervereinigung München (NKV) with Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Marianne von Werefkin, Adolf Erbslöh, Alexander Kanoldt and Vladimir von Bechtejeff and elected deputy chairman (1909). Contributed eleven paintings to the first NKV exhibition at the Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser on 7 Theatinerstra?e in Munich (1909), which later visited Brünn, Elberfeld, Barmen, Hamburg, Düsseldorf , Wiesbaden, Schwerin and Frankfurt-on-Main (1910). Contributed eleven paintings to the second NKV exhibition at the Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser (1910), which included such foreign artists as Georges Braque, André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Henri Le Fauconnier, Pablo Picasso and Maurice de Vlaminck and later visited Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Hagen, Berlin, Dresden and Weimar (1911). Contributed to the third and last NKV exhibition at the Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser (1911), which showed fifty-eight works by eight artists and later visited Zurich, Bremen, Cologne, Elberfeld, Mannheim, Heidelberg, Frankfurt-on-Main, Jena and Breslau (1912). Joined the rival group of Der blaue Reiter founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc (1911) and contributed to its exhibition at the Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser in Munich (1911–12), which later visited Cologne, Berlin, Bremen, Hagen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Budapest, Oslo, Helsinki, Trondheim and Gothenburg (1912–14). Painted landscapes at Prerow on the Baltic Sea (1911) and Obertsdorf in Bavarian Swabia (1912). Met German Expressionist Emil Nolde and visited his exhibition at the Kunsthandlung Schmidt near the English Garden in Munich (1912). Painted landscapes in Bordighera on the Italian Riviera (1914). Visited his brothers and sisters in Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw and saw his mother for the last time at Vyshny Volochyok (1914). Returned to Munich via Kovno in Lithuania, where Marianne von Werefkin’s brother was the local governor (1914). Declared persona non grata in Munich following the outbreak of the First World War and given forty-eight hours to leave Germany (1914). Emigrated to neighbouring Switzerland, where he rented three rooms on the top floor of a small house at 2 Rue du Motty in St Prex on Lake Geneva (1914). Did not have a studio and could only paint the view from his bedroom window (1914–16). Painted a series of over three hundred works called Variations on a Landscape Theme (1914–21) and portraits of inverted faces called Fantasy Heads (1915–16). Met Emmy Esther Scheyer, an artist, musician and daughter of a tinned food manufacturer from Brunswick, who decided to give up painting and spend her life promoting his art (1916). Moved to Zurich (1917), where he lived at 5 Drosselstrasse and met such members of the Dada group as Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara (1917). Abandoned Expressionism and returned to painting portraits (1917). Created a series of over one hundred Mystical Heads based on the face of Emmy Scheyer (1917), whom he christened “Galka” (Russian for “jackdaw”) after he had a dream in which a jackdaw comforted him when he discovered Hélène with another man (1920). Worked in parallel on a series of three hundred works called Countenances of the Saviour (1917). Contracted influenza during the epidemic sweeping Zurich (1917) and moved to Ticino in the south of Switzerland to recuperate (1918). Lived in Ascona (1918–21), where he began a series of over 1,300 works called the Abstract Heads (1918). Enjoyed a period of relative prosperity after Emmy Scheyer wrote a monograph illustrated with reproductions of his works (1919) and held a travelling exhibition which visited Berlin, Barmen, Mannheim, Erfurt, Dresden, Essen, Hagen, Weimar and Wiesbaden (1920–21). Moved to Wiesbaden (1921), where he lived at 3 Nikolausstrasse and 9 Beethovenstraße and continued his series of Abstract Heads (1921–33). Parted company with Marianne von Werefkin and finally married Hélène (1922). Contributed six lithographs of Abstract Heads to a folder of graphic art published by the Nassau Kunstverein in Wiesbaden (1922) and another lithograph to the fourth Bauhaus folder (1922). Responded to the economic depression in Germany (1923) by founding Die blaue Vier with Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger (1924) and holding seven exhibitions in the United States and Mexico (1924–34), accompanied by public lectures given by Emmy Scheyer, who emigrated to San Francisco (1925). Met the artist and collector Hanna Bekker vom Rath (1927), who founded the Association of Friends of the Art of Alexei von Jawlensky (1929). Noticed the first symptoms of arthritis in his hands and legs (1929). Suffered from progressing paralysis and the extraction of all his teeth (1933). Prohibited from exhibiting by the Nazis (1933), despite receiving German citizenship (1934). Launched his last major series of Meditations, combining elements of abstraction and Byzantine icon-painting (1934). Created over 1,600 works, even though he had to tie the brush to his hand to paint (1934–37). Attended the Entartete Kunst exhibition at the Hofgarten Arcade in Munich (1937), which included some of his sixty-five works removed from German museums as examples of “degenerate art” (1937). Completely paralysed and forced to give up painting (1937). Dictated his memoirs to young German artist Lisa Kümmel (1937). Died in Wiesbaden, where he was buried at the Russian Orthodox church of St Elizabeth (1941). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1891). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Moscow Society of Lovers of the Arts (1891), Exhibition in Aid of Famine Relief (1891), Munich Sezession (1903–08), Berlin Sezession (1904, 1906, 1909), Salon d’Automne (1905, 1906), New Society of Artists (1905, 1908), World of Art (1906), Union of Russian Artists (1906, 1907, 1909), Wreath-Stephanos (1908), Sergei Makovsky Salon (1909), Vladimir Izdebsky Salons (1909–11), Neue Künstlervereinigung München (1909–11), Knave of Diamonds (1910–11), Exhibition of the Works of Alexei von Jawlensky and Wladimir von Bechtejeff at the Barmen Ruhmeshalle (1911), Der blaue Reiter in Munich (1911–14), Internationale Kunstausstellung des Sonderbundes Westdeutscher Kunstfreunde und Künstler zu Cöln in Cologne (1912), Der Sturm at the Galerie der Sturm in Berlin (1912–14), Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in Berlin (1913), Futurist and Expressionist Exhibition in Budapest and Lemberg (1913), Die blaue Vier in Germany, United States and Mexico (1924–34), Entartete Kunst in Munich (1937), international exhibitions in Bremen (1906), Cologne (1912), Malmö (1914), Venice (1920) and Düsseldorf (1922) and the exhibitions of Russian art in Paris (1906), Berlin (1906) and Hanover (1921). One-man shows in Bremen (1911), Munich (1912, 1913), Berlin (1914) and Basle (1917).

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