FEATURE image: Photograph of Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941) was a late 19th-early 20th century Russian-émigré artist to Germany. In an art career which began in earnest in the mid1890’s Jawlensky became, over the next decade and a half, one of the most progressive avant-garde modernist artists of his generation.
Based in Munich, Germany, Jawlensky surrounded himself with a coterie of fellow young ex-patriate artists such as Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Jawlensky’s art developed out of an international search which took the artist from Russia to Germany and onwards to France, England, the Low Countries, and Switzerland.
Jawlensky borrowed significantly from the avant-garde art movements of his day, namely, French Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Jawlensky was a friend and admirer of Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954).
Before the outbreak of World War One, Jawlensky experimented and synthesized his modern art to the plateau of new-found German Expressionism. In a working dialogue with Wassily Kandinsky, German painter Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), and several other avant-garde artists, Jawlensky pursued his individual experimentation with particular interest as to the liberation of color and form. This was done in the context of European modernism, including its response to modern society’s industrialization and mechanization.
Emergent German Expressionists such as Jawlensky sought to free the object —that is, more precisely, the whole natural world—from its objective fixity so to situate it within the inner feelings and spirit of the artist.
As a European modernist, Jawlensky participated in international modern art exhibitions that featured avant-garde artists whose artwork was controversial in general society as well as in the prevailing art world. Jawlensky co-founded leading avant-garde art groups such as, in 1909, the New Munich Artist’s Association and, in 1911, Der Blaue Reiter. These artists groups led modern art towards representational expressionism and abstraction.
Jawlensky died in Germany on March 15, 1941.
The whole matter of French art is a matter of seeing nature as beautiful, very beautiful in face. But on the whole, this is not enough. You have to create your own nature.
Apples, trees and human faces merely help me to see something different in them– the life of color, as comprehended by someone who is passionately in love.
My paintings were aglow with colors and so my soul was contented with them.
FEATURE image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on cardboard, private collection.
By John P. Walsh
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Symbolist and Expressionist artist from Norway.
In the 1890s, anti-naturalism mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. This movement informed the art of Edvard Munch throughout that decade and into the twentieth century. Inspiration from literature, however, was not illustration. By the 1890s the younger generation of modern artists saw that by giving the artist an example of constructing an irrational logic, the artist’s dream, or more specific to Munch, psychology, had been freed not only from the restrictions of nature in terms of form, line, color and subject but also its potentially literary or ideological sources. It manifests as a style of drawing that the imagination has liberated from the concern of natural details in order that it might freely serve only as the representation of conceived things.
For Edvard Munch, this resulted in the creation of several fantastic scenarios which are designed and constructed as the artist deems them necessary to be. The distinction between Impressionism and Symbolism is the difference emanating from the tradition of naturalism and the expression of ideas by means of its symbol that is searching beyond naturalism.
Edvard Munch is a precursor and practitioner of Expressionism. Although the major portion of Munch’s artwork lies outside this classification, his expressionist paintings are some of his best-known works.
The Scream is Munch’s most famous work, and is widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. It is one of modern art’s most iconic paintings along with Whistler’s mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black, Number One, D’Orsay), Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Louvre), and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago).
Expressionism was a movement that was a combination of Symbolism, ideals of the human spirit, often confined in solitude, and poetical lyricism laced with emotion.1
1870’s, 1880’s KRISTIANIA (OSLO): MUNCH’S FIRST ARTWORK AND “THE SEEDS OF MADNESS”
In an artistic career that spanned from the early 1880s until his death in 1944 at 80 years old, Edvard Munch experimented within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photography and film.
Growing up in Kristiania (today’s Oslo) Munch decided at 17 years old that he was going to be a painter. Munch’s family encouraged his artistic pursuits so that in 1880 Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania where he expanded his drawing repertoire to include live models and en pleine aire (out of doors).
Often ill as a child, Munch believed that in his experiences growing up, “…I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”
In his career, Munch painted mania in several pictures, including Melancholy (1901). It depicted his younger sister Laura who suffered from schizophrenia, and was hospitalized regularly for what was diagnosed as “hysteria” and “melancholia.”2
SOUL PAINTING: MUNCH’S FIRST ARTISTIC BREAKTHROUGH
Between 1884 and 1889 young Munch made a range of drawing and paintings that was extensive and meaningful. His portfolio included landscapes, domestic environments, portraits, self-portrait, still life, and fictional motifs. Munch’s drawings included industrial sites along the Akerselva River, and promenading denizens and local farmers at work.
In Munch’s early work there is a hint of his wrestling with eros and the nature of woman that became a lifelong obsession.
In Kristiania Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of anti-establishment writer Hans Jaeger (1854-1910). Jaeger urged Munch to paint his own emotional and psychological state called “soul painting.”
Munch’s first “soul painting” was The Sick Child (1886). The artist produced five versions over decades. Munch’s freedom of treatment and color – also found in the painting Tête-à-Tête in 1885 – is largely owed to Impressionism. In 1886, Munch participated in the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania and exhibited The Sick Child. It met with very negative reaction. The motif of the sick was popular but Munch’s hasty Impressionistic treatment was seen as insensitive. It was the first breakthrough for Munch’s art.
Munch later painted Hans Jaeger’s portrait in Oslo in 1889 after Jaeger lost his job and had to flee Norway one step ahead of the law. This was after Jaeger published a novel about local Bohemian life that the authorities considered inflammatory. Young Munch began to explore in his art personal situations, emotions, and states of mind. He wrote in his “soul” diary: ” I attempt In my art to explain life and its meaning to myself.”3
PARIS AND ÅSGÅRDSTRAND IN 1885: MUNCH ENCOUNTERS OLD MASTERS, MODERNIST ÉDOUARD MANET—AND HAS HIS FIRST LOVE AFFAIR
With friends, Munch rented a studio in Kristiania. His mentor, established artist Christian Krohg (1852-1925), encouraged Munch to conform to his own artistic vision.
In 1885, 22-year-old Munch traveled to Paris for the first time to explore the world’s art capital. During his three-week stay in Paris Munch visited the Louvre and the Salon and was particularly impressed by French Modernist painter, Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Munch began to incorporate those ideas and techniques of French Modernism into his artistic vision. In the same year Munch produced his full-length Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell to the derision of critics in Kristiania. The penchant for Manet’s artwork continued for Munch into the new century with a full-length portrait called The Frenchman (Monsieur Archimard) in 1901.
In summer of 1885 Munch had his first love affair which affected him deeply. It occurred in the coastal resort town of Åsgårdstrand when Munch met Milly Thaulow (1860-1937), a fashion model and singer.
Milly had been married since 1881 when she met Munch and they had a passionate affair. The short, secret relationship filled Munch with mixed feelings of love and shame. Its inevitable ending produced melancholy that affected Munch’s artmaking.
Milly Thaulow remained active in the arts, translating Maurice Maeterlinck’s French play, Pelléas et Mélisande, into Norwegian in 1906. She went on to divorce her husband in 1891 and remarry that same year. Her second marriage ended in divorce. In the end, Munch justified his experience with Milly as part of radical bohemian artist culture which Hans Jaeger preached where love is free and self-expression is paramount.
PARIS IN 1889-91: MUNCH’S MODERNIST VISION AND TECHNIQUE
In 1889 Munch rented exhibition space in Kristiania to display 110 of his artworks. His entrepreneurship resulted in receiving state grant funds that led to a second, yet back and forth, stay to Paris whose time amounted overall to about two years.
In Paris, Munch took drawing lessons, explored art galleries, and networked with expatriate artists, especially at the venerable 17th-century Café de la Régence near the Palais-Royal.
In his study, Munch became inspired by the rhythmical and decorative art of Paul Gauguin (1847-1903), several of the Nabis, Japonisme, and the Symbolist drawing of Odilon Redon (1840-1916).
Though Munch rejected Realism in art, he embraced Impressionism, particularly the technique of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Munch was particularly impressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and their unnatural use of color to express sensory perception and emotion. In this milieu Munch painted Rue Lafayette (1891).
The 26-year-old Munch had just arrived into Paris when his father died, an event which devastated the artist. Running low on money, Munch left the city and, with Danish poet Goldstein, rented a small apartment in the suburb of St. Cloud.
Munch’s experiences of relative poverty and the death of a loved one offered new insights and impetus for his art in terms of seeking to understand and express the memory of his human existence.
He painted Night In St. Cloud (1890) and Evening on the Karl Johan (1889) in this time period. Munch also conceived the idea of The Frieze of Life, a series of paintings exploring human existence from a range of pathos, terror, desire, dread, nightmare, and anxiety, to other fascinations, so to include The Dance of Life, The Scream, The Vampire, Madonna, and Death and the Maiden.
In 1891 Munch had exhibitions in Kristiania, Berlin, and Munich. He returned to Paris several times in the next decade for short term visits as in 1899 which included a trip to Italy.4
BERLIN 1892-1895: MUNCH’S ARTISTIC POWER REACH MATURITY
In 1892, Munch’s pictures were again exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in Oslo (it was his final time)–and led to the 29-year-old artist being invited to exhibit at the Verein der Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists) in Germany in November 1892 for a one-man exhibition.
Munch’s exhibition of Melancholy (1891) in Oslo was called Norway’s “first Symbolist painting.” His exhibition of 55 pictures in Berlin proved another breakthrough for Munch’s reputation in Europe: it made him infamous. The critical reaction to his artwork was divided. Critics described Munch’s art as “repugnant, ugly and mean.” As it shocked the Berlin public, German artists Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and Ludwig von Hofmann (1861-1945) setting up a dissident “Group of XI” that led to the establishment of the Berlin Secession later on May 2, 1898.
The government of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) set the mood for the public reaction in that art which “presumes to overstep the limits and rules” which Wilhelm had set, “is no longer art.” In the eyes of German society, Munch’s artwork “misused the word ‘freedom’ and (with) a total loss of restraint and excess of self-esteem.”
Later, by around 1910, that same Emperor in his constant pursuit of cultural influence, mostly supported the Berlin Secession. Yet the Secession’s public and financial success which Wilhelm II eventually helped to build, came at the price of a benevolent autocrat’s constant interference, particularly in the modern art group’s jury process.
Munch stayed in Berlin until 1895. In the Berlin exhibitions of 1893 and 1895 Munch presented a sequence of pictures he called Man’s Life, From the Modern Life of the Soul and, simply, Love. These all contained artwork that contributed to The Frieze which Munch intended to be a symbolic expression of reality and not a mere symbol of or for reality.
Munch’s bohemian circle in Berlin included editors of the magazine Pan, the German arts publication analogous to France’s La Revue Blanche. It also included Swedish avant-garde writer, August Strindberg (1849-1912) who would soon provide Munch with influential introductions to the Berlin and Paris art worlds. In 1890 Strindberg broke with naturalism and was in his own artistic and personal crisis as he sought new art forms within an emerging Symbolism. Munch met German art critic Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935) and socialized with Polish decadent naturalist and Symbolist novelist, dramatist, and poet Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927) along with Przybyszewski’s paramour and later short-term wife, Dagny Juel (1867-1901). Munch painted both of these friends’ portraits.
Munch’s Berlin friends understood what Munch was doing with symbolism though the German critics did not. Przybyszewski wrote: “The old kind of art and psychology was an art and psychology of the conscious personality, whereas the new art is the art of the individual. Men dream and their dreams open up vistas of a new world to them.”
In addition to exhibiting in Berlin in both 1893 and 1894, Munch exhibited in Copenhagen, Dresden and Munich in 1893 and in Stockholm in 1894.
Working on the Frieze of Life, Munch created painting with turbulent, ambiguous and morose themes with titles such as Despair (1892), The Girl and Death (1893), Stormy Night (1893), The Voice (1893), Anxiety (1894), The Three Stages of Woman (1894), Ashes (1894), Death Struggle (1895), and Jealousy (1895). Aspects of Symbolism extended to romantic aspects of nature in paintings such as Coastal Mysticism (1892), Evening (Melancholy) (1893), Moonlight (1893), Starlit Night (1893), Sunrise at Åsgårdstrand (1893) and The Evening Star (1894). He painted many portraits in this period, in addition to those in his Berlin Bohemian circle, including Sister Inger (1892). Other iconic, overtly anecdotal Munch paintings were created such as Self Portrait in Hell (1895), Self Portrait under a female mask (1892), and Self portrait with Burning Cigarette (1895).
Other paintings, including casino scenes, showed Munch’s simplification of form and detail. The artist favored shallow pictorial space and a minimal backdrop for his foreground figures. Poses, forms, colors, lines and subjects were carefully constructed images that expressed psychological and emotional states, and often appear monumental as if they were playing a role on the stage of life.5
PARIS IN 1895 TO 1897: MUNCH ADOPTS “IDEA” PAINTING. THE SCREAM
Until 1870, young artists from Norway went to Dűsseldorf to study and pursue an art career though sometimes to Berlin, Paris, Munich and Karlesruhe. By 1880, Paris was the center of the art world and Munch returned to Paris in 1895, 1896, and 1897 for extended visits (he also visited Nice in 1897).
Thadée Nathanson’s La Revue Blanche published Munch’s lithograph The Scream in December 1895. The Scream exists in four versions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are several lithographs of The Scream from 1895 and later.
With The Scream, Munch met his stated goal in his diary of his art expressing “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self.” Philippe Jullian argues that it had been the combination of influences of Strindberg, Redon, and Gauguin that explained Munch’s conversion from Naturalism and Impressionism to “Idea” painting expressed in Symbolism. Munch was the first to express the individual’s anguish in modern society and facing death. He was an inventor of the ectoplasm line (“ectoplasm” is a spiritualism term first used in 1894). Munch’s figures, including The Scream, emerges from pastel, oil, or ink like an apparition, yet to be identified with the “souls” of ordinary persons.
Anxiety, jealousy, loneliness; Munch illustrates people who pictorially express Symbolism’s darkest visions and themes.
In Paris Munch exhibitions were organized at the Salon des Indépendents and Siegfried Bing’s Salon de L‘Art Nouveau. Young avant-garde art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) included Munch in his first Album des Peintres Graveurs. Munch was commissioned by the Cent Bibliophiles to illustrate Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil. Like young Nabis Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Munch designed programs for Symbolist theatre (Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre). He did portraits of Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and August Strindberg. Munch created some of his most iconic motifs, including The Scream (pastel version), Vampire (a woman seductive and destructive), Puberty (an anxious girl seated naked on a bed), and Madonna (a synthesis of the mystical and erotic).
MUNCH MASTERS MODERN EXPERIMENTAL PRINTMAKING
In Berlin in 1894 Munch had produced his first dry point etchings. In Paris in 1896, following the explosion of color printing in the 1890’s, Munch produced his first color lithographs and woodcuts (Vampire was his first woodcut). Influenced by Gauguin and Max Klinger (1857-1920), printmaking allowed Munch to be highly experimental in the creation of an image. Particular to Munch as an artist, the subject of the artwork determined which of the various styles to be deployed. At his death Munch retained over 15,000 prints in his Oslo studios. During his lifetime, inspired importantly by his work in mid-1890’s Paris, Munch became a master of all graphic techniques, such as color, volume, and line. Munch’s production of an immense portfolio of graphic art sought to create images which are subordinated to the experiences of the self’s impulses and drives.
Munch’s attempts to market his new artwork in Paris as he did in Berlin to acceptance and fame resulted in relative failure in the world’s art capital. His parting milestone in Paris in this period was in the 1897 Salon des Artistes Indépendants where Munch displayed in the main hall his ever-augmenting Frieze of Life. The cycle was characterized by continuous reworkings as new paintings; versions that replaced paintings which had sold; and, new compositions added to the series.
In terms of public acclaim, the effort appeared for naught. French resistance to Munch’s “repugnant, ugly and mean” art endured. French critics decried Munch’s art as “violent and brutal” and, when they weren’t chastising him, they ignored him—and this attitude lasted deep into the 20th century. However, another exhibition in Munch’s native Oslo of 85 paintings was well received.6
MUNCH’S AMBIVALENCE IN LOVE AND OBSESSION WITH DEATH
In 1898 Munch met Tulla (Mathilde Larsen) and they became lovers. Munch continued a productive period of art-making as he continually refused to marry Tulla. Munch portrayed many artworks displaying his view of life and death and the destructive force of love where both man and woman suffer– Madonna (1893), Salome, The Maiden and the Heart (1896), Under the Yoke (1896), Cruelty, The Woman and the Urn (1896), and, later, his Alpha and Omega lithograph series (1909). Munch remained fascinated by women as expressed in The Kiss (1892), The Three Stages of Women (1894), and The Dance of Life (1900).
One explanation of the ambivalent relationship of Munch the artist and Woman as artistic subject may be understood through the Symbolist art aesthetic. Symbolism connoted the idea of a desirable union of the human being with a philosophic ideal. In its view, Woman, though called real is a false appearance, and thereby not ideal. Further, Woman acts mainly as a temptress, the then-popular notion of a femme fatale, as she reveals man’s animal nature which obscures and prevents the desirable union to the ideal. Woman must be avoided and, if engaged by man, done so with peril.
Munch was an idealist before he became a Symbolist, and, as Christian Krohg ominously wrote about him in 1892: “dares to subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood.“
In 1899 Munch exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in Dresden. The Berlin Secession held its first exhibition in 1899 on its own premises but did not invite Edvard Munch. Though the Berlin group invited no foreigners that year, Munch’s art continued to be viewed by status quo cognoscenti as “undesirable.” Yet, at the same time, Munch’s art was beginning to influence young Expressionist artists in Germany. In artworks such as The Voice and Summer’s Night, Munch appealed to these younger avant-garde artists for his illustrating the upsurge and resonance of raw emotion.
MUNCH IN THE NEW CENTURY; THE FRIEZE OF LIFE
Little is known about Munch’s personal relationships with individual women that would greatly enlighten the artist’s overall character and how these relationships’ impacted his artwork in his adult years. Fantastic stories are told. How, in his room at Åsgårdstrand with an unknown woman (likely Tulla), did a gunshot go off in Fall 1902 from a revolver that injured Munch’s hand? Munch successfully chased Tulla out of his life, though after she married another man, the artist felt betrayed by Love and brooded over it. Even as Munch had numerous short-lived affairs with beautiful women who wanted to marry him, he fled them all and verbally expressed no known regrets. Throughout his life, Edvard Munch never married.
Munch started the year 1900 in Gudbrandsdalen and moved on to Berlin. In 1901 he painted in Nordstrand and in 1902 returned to Berlin. Along with artwork of Édouard Manet, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Claude Monet, Munch exhibited at the Berlin Secession in 1902. He had continually worked at the Frieze of Life, the group of images representing human existence, a subject that fascinated the artist. He exhibited 22 paintings from the completed Frieze at that year’s Berlin Secession. Though the Berlin critics began to appreciate Munch’s art, the public continued to view him as warped and weird. In 1902 he met ophthalmologist Dr. Max Linde (1862-1940), an art collector and author of a Munch study while Hamburg judge and art collector Gustav Schiefler (1857-1935) started a catalogue of Munch’s voluminous graphic art that year.
In 1903 Munch visited Dr. Max Linde in Lübeck and painted a frieze for his house though Dr. Linde ended up rejecting Munch’s work. Munch exhibited in Berlin at Paul Cassirer modern art gallery.
EVA MUDOCCI’S PREGNANCY AND MUNCH’S NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
In 1903 Munch met British violinist Eva Mudocci (1872-1953) in Paris where Munch had an exhibition. Fully aware of his commitment only to art, Eva Mudocci reportedly became Munch’s mistress and Munch soon immortalized her in The Woman with the Brooch.
In this period, Munch received several commissions for portraits and prints. In 1904 the German rights to his graphic art and paintings was sold to two prominent galleries. Munch exhibited in Vienna and Paris and became a member of the Berlin Secession. In 1905 Munch exhibited 75 paintings in Prague at the Manés Gallery and in 1906 was invited to exhibit with the Fauves in Paris. In Berlin, Munch painted stage sets for Henrik Ibsen plays (Ghosts and Hedda Gabler) at the Max Reinhardt Theatre. A frieze that was commissioned for the Reinhardt Theatre was sold by its director before the frieze was unveiled to the public.
In 1907 Munch summered in Warnemünde as he turned his attention to human figures and situations. He exhibited with Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne at Cassirer Gallery, the purchaser of the German rights to Munch’s graphic art. In November 1907 Eva Mudocci went on a concert tour in Norway for three weeks where She and Munch spent time together in Åsgårdstrand and Oslo. In early 1908 Eva Mudocci was pregnant and gave birth to twins in Denmark at the end of the year. Friends insisted that Munch must have been the father but Mudocci never said who the father was.
Almost simultaneous with Mudocci’s pregnancy, 45-year-old Edvard Munch had a nervous breakdown. In December 1908 he checked himself into a clinic in Copenhagen for several month’s treatment for alcoholism and exhaustion. Munch later wrote: “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.”
In 1909, Mudocci and Munch parted ways though they stayed in touch for the next 18 years, until 1927. At the clinic, Munch painted portraits of his doctor (Dr. Daniel Jacobsen, 1909) and a nurse as well as close friends and a self-portrait using short, thick, and forceful brushstrokes—it was a watershed moment in Munch’s life and art.7
NORWAY 1909: MUNCH COMES HOME
Following his recuperation at the clinic, Munch was sober for the first time in years. In 1907 and 1908 he created Bathing Men, a scene of cleansing by immersion reminiscent of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Suddenly the totality of Munch’s art of the 1890’s and early 1900’s, where he explored his dark and tormented feelings, thoughts, and experiences, became passé for the artist. With the same vigorous brushwork and unnatural, expressionistic colors, Munch turned to painting everyday subjects.
Renting a house in Kragerø, a fishing village in Norway, Munch permanently settled in his homeland. In 1912 he exhibited in Cologne at the Sonderbund exhibition where he was ranked with Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. That year Munch had his first American exhibition In New York City. In 1913, the 50-year-old artist traveled extensively, had tributes paid to him, and rented larger quarters at Jeløya.
Munch turned to landscapes and large-scale art projects as he continued the murals for Oslo University which were, after lengthy controversy, finally accepted in 1914. Already a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olaf since 1909, the Oslo National Gallery began buying some of Munch’s most important works – The Day After, Ashes, Puberty, Two Girls at the Verandah, and The Frenchman. The State museum received gifts from collectors as well. Olaf Schou (1861-1925) gave them Madonna, The Sick Child, Mother and Daughter, Girls on the Bridge and, later, The Scream, Death in the Sick Chamber, The Dance of Life, Girl at her Toilet, Betsy, Moonlight in Nice, and others.
Meanwhile, Munch decided to turn for inspiration to some of the outward obsessions of a new 20th century: its advancing technologies, mass media, high-speed transportation and urban life. 8
GLOBAL FAME, LAST EXHIBITIONS, OLD AGE AND DEATH
From 1914 until his death in January 1944, Munch sold nearly nothing but pictures bought by museums and new, commissioned work. Until then Munch had to sell pictures to live though he was reluctant and made replicas for himself. He did not sell works closely aligned to his emotional life. In 1916, Munch, now a famous artist, had finished the murals in the assembly Hall of Oslo University and purchased Ekely at Skøyen just outside the city. The artist constructed fences, let hedges and weeds grow tall, and closed off his residence to onlookers. Not strictly a misanthrope, Munch chose to live in glorious isolation. He hardly stayed in contact with family or relatives and permitted few friends to visit.
At Ekely Munch constructed interior and exterior studio spaces where, situated among works, Munch stored The Frieze of Life. At his death in January 1944 at Ekely, Munch bestowed all works in his possession to the city of Oslo– more than 1000 paintings, 15,000 prints, and about 500 watercolors and drawings. There was also some sculpture. These artworks comprise most of today’s Munch Museum – see https://www.munchmuseet.no/
In 1922 Munch painted 12 murals for a chocolate factory in Oslo. In the 1920’s and 1930’s he exhibited his art frequently— in Zurich, Basel, Berne, Berlin, Mannheim, Dresden. In 1936 and 1937, he exhibited in London, Amsterdam and Stockholm. There were major shows and retrospectives.
LAST PAINTINGS RETURN TO EARLIER DARKER SUBJECTS AND THEMES
Besides monumental work for public projects, Munch late paintings included almost genre-type scenes such as horses and workers in the field, fishermen, an elm forest, fruit trees and a garden. While the main mural for Festival Hall at Oslo University is mostly decorative, The Sun (1909-11) recalls aspects of Symbolism that Munch depicted in his darker pictures of the 1890s. Some late pictures stirred with the memory of past, darker experiences such as The Death of the Bohemian (1926) and The Bohemian’s Wedding (1926). In 1915 he painted a new version of the Death Struggle from 1895.
After contracting Spanish Flu in 1919, Munch painted his self-portrait as a convalescent from sickness and death. Twenty years later the artist painted a self portrait as an insomniac in The Night Wanderer (1939). Munch produced paintings and graphic work in great number. There are self-portraits; portraits; beach motifs; motifs from life of workers, fishermen, and farmers; garden scenes; nudes; landscapes; the theme of Faust, etc.
When Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1940 during World War II, Munch’s exhibitions outside Norway ceased by 1942. In 1937 the Nazis had labeled 37 of Munch’s paintings as “degenerate art” and they were removed and sold. After the invasion of Norway, Munch refused to have anything to do with the German occupiers. Munch stayed in Norway where he died at Ekely on January 23. 1944, at 80 years old.9
1. Odilon Redon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986, p. 23.
Quoted in Martha Kapos, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993, pp. 175-180.
Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 6 and 24
2. Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 2.
Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, pp. 196, 203, 228, 236.
Edward Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 189.
8. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, pp. 127-128.
Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 373. 9. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 167.
Michael Gibson, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p.149.
Munch, Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, New York: Universe Books, 1964, p. i-ii; 1.
Bischoff, Ulrich, Edvard Munch 1863-1944, Cologne: Taschen, 2000. Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982. Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. Eggum, Arne, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, New York: C.N. Potter, 1984. Gibson, Michael, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999. Goldwater, Robert, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998. Hodin, J.P., Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Jullian, Philippe, Dreams of Decadence: Symbolist Painters of the 1890s, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971. Kapos, Martha, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993. Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, Munch, New York: Universe Books, 1964. Lucie-Smith, Edward, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 207. Paret, Peter, The Berlin Secession, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. Prideaux, Sue, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Rapetti, Rodolphe, Symbolism, Paris: Flammarion, 2005. Redon, Odilon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986. Selz, Jean, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974.
LIST OF WORKS BY EDVARD MUNCH
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1886.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, crayon, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, Laura.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1882, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Interior Pilestredet, oil on canvas, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Still Life with Jar, Apple, Walnut and Coconut, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, From Saxegårdsgate, c. 1882, oil on canvas, Lillehammer Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Laura, 1882, oil on paper (top) and oil on cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Andreas Studying Anatomy, 1883, Oil on Cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Tête-à-tête, oil on canvas, 1885, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child (original version), 1885-86, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Hans Jæger, 1889, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night on the Beach, 1889, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait, c. 1888, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell, 1885, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night In St. Cloud, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening on the Karl Johan, 1889, oil, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy, 1891, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue Lafayette, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue de Rivoli, 1891, oil on canvas, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, 1893, oil, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (The Yellow Boat), 1891, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the window, 1892, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1892, oil, Private Collection.
Edvard Munch, The Girl by the Window, 1893, oil, Art Institute of Chicago.
Edvard Munch, Separation, 1893-94, Gouache, watercolor and crayon on paper, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Parting, 1894, oil on canvas, 67 x 128 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Three Stages of Women (Sphinx), c. 1894, Bergan.
Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894–1895, oil on canvas, 151.5 x 110 cm, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Despair, 1893, oil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Inger in Black and Violet, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The storm, oil on canvas, 1893, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Summer Night’s Dream The Voice, 1893, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Coastal Mysticism, 1892.
Edvard Munch, Sketch of the Model Posing, 1893, pastel on cardboard, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Edvard Munch, The Hands, 1893, oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Under the Mask of the Woman, 1893, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait in Hell, c. 1895, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski,1895, pastel, 62x55cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895. Ink.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, Dry-point and aquatint, 34.8 x 28 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, woodcut, n.d., 44.7 x 44.7. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1896, Lithograph, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894, Dry-point, 30.2 x 22 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening),1896, woodcut, 37.6 x 45.5. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Attraction, 1896, Lithograph, 47.2 x 35.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Lithograph, 42.1 x 56.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening, Melancholy I, woodcut, 1896.
Edvard Munch, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Auguste Strindberg, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1895, Lithograph, 45.5×31.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Lady From the Sea (detail), 1896, oil on canvas. 100 cm × 320 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Voice Summer Night, 1896, 90 cm × 119 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo
Edvard Munch, Paris Boulevard, 1896, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 130 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas, 141 x 121 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Two people, 1899, oil on canvas, 175 x 143 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907, oil on canvas, 118 x 99 cm
Edvard Munch, Marat’s death, 1907, oil on canvas, 151 x148 cm, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, The Murderess, 1906, Munch museum.
Edvard Munch, Death of Marat I, 1907, 150 x 199 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1897, oil on canvas, 99 x 80.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893, oil on canvas, 128 x 86 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Man and Woman, 1898, oil on canvas, Bergen.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski (The Vampire), Oil and/or tempera on unprimed cardboard, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Weeping Nude, 1913–1914, 110 cm × 135 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Against a Green Background and Caricature Portrait of Tulla Larsen, 1905.
Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1893,
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900.
Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Brooch, 1903, lithograph, 60×46 cm.
Edvard Munch, Salome, 1903, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Fertility, 1898, woodcut, 42 x 51.7 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Women on the Beach, 1898, woodcut, 45.5 x 50.8 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Red and White, 1899–1900, 93 cm × 129 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906, Thiel Gallery, Stockholm.
Edvard Munch, Red Virginia Creeper, 1900, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.
Edvard Munch, Young People on the Beach, 1902, oil on canvas, 90 x 174 cm.
Edvard Munch, On the beach, 1905, oil on canvas, 81x 121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 194 x 294 cm.
Edvard Munch, Shore with Red House, 1904, oil on canvas, 69 × 109 cm, Munch Museum. Edvard Munch, Train Smoke,1900, 84 cm × 109 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At The Sign of the Sweet Girl, 1907, oil on canvas, 85 x 130 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Four Girls Åsgårdstrand, 1905, oil on canvas, 87x111cm.
Edvard Munch, Avenue in the snow, 1906, oil on canvas, 80 x100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904, 197×91 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, 1906, 110 cm × 120, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Deathbed, 1900, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm.
Edvard Munch, Village Street, 1905, oil on canvas, 100×100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Prayer, 1902, woodcut, 45.8 x32.5 cm.
Edvard Munch, Dr. Daniel Jacobson, 1909, oil on canvas, 204 x 112 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nurse, 1909, dry point, 20.5×15.2 cm.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Bergen, 1916, oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Men, 1907–1908, oil on canvas, 206 x 227.5 cm, Atheneum, Helsinki.
Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894/5, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Moonlight in Nice, 1895, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom, 1893, pastel on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge,1899-1901, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Mother and Daughter, 1897, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude, 1919, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Artist and his Model, 1919-1921, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
FEATURE Image: Jawlensky, Hügel (Hills), 1912, oil on hardboard, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), a young Russian-émigré artist to Germany beginning in the mid 1890’s, became one of the most progressive avant-garde modernist artists of his generation. His international search—from Russia to France, England and the Low Countries, as well as his lifelong expatriate base in Munich, Germany—led him to experiment and synthesize unto German Expressionism the main currents of modern art styles before World War One. This included significant borrowings from Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Jawlensky, with Russian compatriot Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and German painter Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), among several others, pursued a decade-long dialogue of their individual experimentation, particularly in the liberation of color and form, as, in part, an artistic response to a modern society increasingly saturated by industrialization and mechanization. Within the socio-economic context of a rising newly-formed German Empire before World War I, these emergent German Expressionists sought to free the object (and unto the natural world) from its objective fixity and situate it within the inner feelings and spirit of the artist. Within European modernism, Jawlensky developed a wide network of contacts and took especial inspiration from modern painters such as Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and others. Jawlensky sought in modern art exhibitions and the co-founding of, and participation in, the New Munich Artist’s Association in 1909 and Der Blaue Reiter in 1911, to lead modern art towards representational expressionism and abstraction.
Alexei von Jawlensky, Self Portrait, 1912.
In 1871, the newly-founded German Empire fused together most of the German speaking states in Central Europe under Prussian leadership. Over the next 60 years under several different forms of government—that of Emperor Wilhelm I (1871-1888), his grandson Wilhelm II (1888-1918) and, following World I, the Weimer Republic (1918-1933) —Germany worked to create and define a political and cultural identity all its own.
In World War I (1914-1918), the recent German Empire fought to consolidate its gains but the effort failed—and Central European powers were divided up into smaller states after the war. The German Empire had risen and fallen in less than 50 years.1
Before unification in 1871, German-speaking denizens of Central Europe came from many independent and differing political units. The Kingdom of Prussia, which in 1816 annexed the Kingdom of Brandenburg, was the foremost German power alongside Austria. Long-held liberal dreams based on the French Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic empire (defeated at Waterloo in 1815) and later mid-19th century pan-European revolutions looked to unify these diverse states into a national union based on self-determination. But these idealistic political aspirations did not reflect all the conditions and facts in these lands.
Napoleon’s invasions into Central Europe in 1806 and 1807 resulted in German state governments that were conservative and anti-constitutional monarchies. When unification came for Germany in 1871, it was not by popular uprisings or democracy. It was the diplomatic handiwork of the six-foot-three-inch Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).
Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).
In 1849, Otto von Bismarck was elected to the Landtag, or Prussian parliament. Following a decade of government service, König Wilhelm of Prussia appointed Bismarck in 1862 as Minister President of Prussia and Foreign Minister. This gave Bismarck virtual absolute power.
In 1866, Bismarck started a short, decisive war with Austria. It proved Prussia was the dominant force in German territory. The Austrian war led to the Prussians with their allies annexing territories and forming the North German Confederation comprised of 22 German states. Nationalism throughout German-speaking Europe rose significantly after this military victory over Austria which had in the contest lost its dominant power position in Europe.
By 1870, German unification was both cause and effect of German nationalism. Unification was opposed by European nations, particularly France, as well as German expansion. The smaller German kingdoms reacted to the diplomatic opposition by uniting with Prussia. It was France that, since the 17th century, was viewed as the actual destabilizing force in Europe, and not a new Germany.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 which started when France was maneuvered by Bismarck to declare war on the North German Confederation, was a disastrous defeat for France. The Prussian victory allowed them to annex Alsace-Lorraine from the French and became another impetus for independent German states to join a united Germany. The German empire was founded and declared on New Year’s Day, 1871. Bismarck crowned Wilhelm as Kaiser Wilhelm I, and Bismarck became Grand Chancellor.
With Austria as an exception, Bismarck ruled the German states as the Second Reich. He brutally censored and repressed any contradictory forces to German nationalism—including the Catholic Church and the Communists and worked to mold scattered German speaking residents into one political and cultural nationality. This nationalistic vision of centralized power—and entangling alliances to support or offset it—led to the mechanized death mill of World War I. In that conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire—the so-called Central Powers—fought the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and, later, the United States.
In this “Great War” the total number of military and civilian casualties on both sides was around 40 million—about 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. Of the 20 million deaths, it included about 10 million in the military and 10 million civilians. The Allies lost almost 6 million soldiers and the Central Powers lost about 4 million.2
World War I was a dividing point in modern history which also had effects on modern art in Germany. Many young, avant-garde artists were killed in action as soldiers in the war. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), both Russian-émigrés, had to flee Germany, only to emerge from the general carnage years later. After the war, German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) believed that his work could be picked up precisely where it was left off before the war. But Gropius quickly realized that was not going to happen going forward, as if the worldwide calamity could exclude art-making in its whirlwind.
Prior to World War I, however, the German Empire experienced dynamic activity and prosperity. During Wilhelm II’s 30-year reign (1888-1918), rapid industrialization, population growth, and the growing gap between an increasingly wealthy and politically influential elite and disenchanted working class rippled throughout the empire. Berlin became Germany’s national capital and Europe’s young new city.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, c. 1901, by German painter Christian Heyden (1854-1939).
Antique map of the German Empire in 1900 showing population density.
Within this modern-state commotion, the role of art in Germany became a battle for the nation’s soul: from the pole of freedom to produce outstanding artworks in the modernist spirit to a regressive cultural heritage with proto-fascist overtones. Cultural conservatives argued for turning inward to German sources for the future direction of German art. These conservative critics dismissed French Impressionism as nonacademic, genre painting of modern life. Above all, it was foreign.
Conversely, the Berlin Secession (1898-1934) and Neue Galerie Thannhauser in Munich challenged academic and state-sponsored artwork and introduced international styles. These venues were where Germans went to see post-Impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh and later Cubists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
By the dawn of the 20th century, what it meant to be German, and among a culturally diverse citizenry, was a 30-year experimental construct forged by Bismarck using raw power so to achieve a unified empire on the world stage. The fall of that empire and the peace that followed it, helped set the stage for the rise of Fascism leading to World War II.
Modern artists of the key artistic movements of the Wilhelmine period, particularly Expressionist art groups such as (“The Bridge”) in Dresden from 1905 to 1913 and Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”) in Munich from 1911 to 1914 — avant-garde forms of modernist abstraction and romanticism — wanted to offset conventional social values based on German industrial materialism by using a contradictory form of self-expression based on the sensual and spiritual.
The issue of what exactly was, or would be, “German” art in the modern age were the stakes for these artists. These artists sought to unify body and soul by expressing internal qualities through exterior appearances and saw this integrated expression as their contribution to that societal and artistic endeavor.3 Progressive artists never dismissed the idea of a German art. They sought its expression in avant-garde artistic elements and forms thereby rejecting its basis on historical and cultural anecdote or nostalgia.
Published in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1900 the map of the Russian Empire is labeled in French with topography relief shown by hachures and Paris as the meridian reference. Transcontinental rail lines in Russia and extend to Paris. Jawlensky, born in western Russia in 1864 was stationed in the 1880’s as a soldier in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As a professional artist in Germany in the 1890’s and afterwards, Jawlensky returned to visit Russia including in the year this map was made. (see- https://www.mapsofthepast.com/russia-empire-kartograficheskoe-circa-1900.html
Alexei von Jawlensky, born in Torzhok in western Russia in 1864, started his career in the military. At 25 years old, in 1889, Jawlensky, stationed in Moscow, requested a transfer to St. Petersburg to study painting at the Academy of Arts. In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky learned about the French Impressionists, particularly the artwork of Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). In 1892, while taking painting lessons with Russian naturalist painter Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Jawlensky met realist painter Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938) who became his mistress and dedicated patron. In 1893 Von Werefkin invited Jawlensky to her father’s estate in Kovno governorate (modern Lithuania) where Jawlensky met Hélène Nesnakomoff (1881-1965), Von Werekin’s personal maid. In time she became Jawlensky’s mistress, mother of his child and, ultimately, in 1922, his wife.
Jawlensky at 23 years old in his military uniform in Russia in 1887.
Marianne von Werefkin.
After seven years studying art in St. Petersburg, Jawlensky’s request to leave the military was granted. He left in early 1896 with a 20-year half pension and the rank of staff captain. That summer Jawlensky traveled through Germany, Holland and Belgium with Marianne von Werefkin and a female friend. Returning to St. Petersburg by way of Paris and London, Jawlensky viewed and admired artwork of J. W. M. Turner (1775-1851) and living artists, James Whistler (1834-1903) and Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898).
In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky entrusted his possessions with family in Russia. With two young painter friends, Igor Grabar (1871-1960) and Dmitrij Kardovskij (1866-1943), he set off to settle in Munich at the end of 1896. Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff joined Jawlensky soon after. From his arrival into Munich, Jawlensky lived, with the exception of World War I, in Germany until his death in 1941. In 1897 Jawlensky, Von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff took an apartment at Giselastrasse 23, a residential street near the Englischen Garten, where they lived until 1914.
Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky in their studio at Gut Blagodat, 1893.
In Munich Jawlensky attended Anton Ažbe’s art school where he met other young German artists, and in 1897, fellow Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. Anton Ažbe (1862-1905), a Slovene realist painter, was a master of human anatomy. He enforced figure drawing studies in his classes which Kandinsky loathed but Jawlensky had been studying since 1890. Kandinsky did appreciate Ažbe’s expressed view that an artist should never conform to a theory or set of rules. Ažbe, who died at 43 years old of cancer in 1905, said: “You must know your own anatomy but in front of the easel you must forget it.”4
Anton Ažbe, Self portrait, 1886.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Jawlensky met Kandinsky in 1897 in Munich at Anton Ažbe’s art school.
After five months in Munich, Jawlensky traveled to Venice in April 1897. He went with Werefkin, Grabar and Kardovskij, and Anton Ažbe. The next summer, in 1898, Jawlensky returned to Russia with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff to visit family. That autumn the Russian group returned to Munich, where artists continued to draw heads and nudes at Azbé’s school. In 1898 Jawlensky met German Symbolist painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) and Kandinsky, in 1900, matriculated in his art class.5 Jawlensky’s conversation with von Stuck was not on the expression of German character in Symbolist art but the technical issue of working in tempura. In 1898 Jawlensky also received a visit from Russian portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911).
Franz von Stuck, Lucifer, 1890, oil on canvas, Bulgaria. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, critics observed that Franz von Stuck (1863–1928) was “one of the most versatile and ingenious of contemporary German artists.” Jawlensky met the renowned Symbolist painter, architect, designer, and co-founder of the Munich Secession in 1898.
Valentin Serov (1865-1911). Self portrait, c. 1888.
In 1899, with Grabar and Kardovskij, Jawlensky executed the ambitious project to open their own painting school in Munich which was short-lived. Kardovskij returned to Russia in 1900 to eventually become a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1907. Grabar returned to Russia in 1903 to became director of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Jawlensky, remaining in Munich, was painting still lifes and looking for color harmonies.
Painter Dmitri Nikolayevich Kardovsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Igor Grabar, and Jawlensky in 1900.
Alexei von Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Samowar (Still life with a samovar), 1901.
Jawlensky visited Russia in 1901 with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff. They visited the Ansbaki estate in the Vitebsk governorate (modern Belarus). When Jawlensky fell ill possibly with typhus, he recovered at the Black Sea with Marianne von Werefkin. There he met Kardovskij and his wife, Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya (1875-1952), a painter who studied at Anton Ažbe’s in Munich in 1898 and 1899.
Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, Self portrait, 1917.
The following year, in January 1902, a son, Andreas, was born to Jawlensky and Hélène Nesnakomoff. Jawlensky was continuing to paint still lifes and figural pictures, some of which were influenced by Swedish artist, Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Jawlensky’s pictures featured as models Hélène and her sister, Maria, after she arrived to Munich in November 1902 to aid the new parents. In a visit in 1902, Prussian-born artist Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) advised Jawlensky to send a painting to the Berlin Secession. Jawlensky did so and it was exhibited.
Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Self portrait, 1896.
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), Self-portrait with Skeleton, 1896, Lenbachaus, Munich. Corinth is a leading figure painter marked by draftsmanship and brushwork. Like Jawlensky, Corinth pursued his artistic training throughout Europe, including in Munich and Paris, and settled permanently in Berlin in 1902. (https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/ap-201701.)
Jawlensky, Stillleben mit orangen (Still Life with Oranges), 1902, oil on canvas.
Jawlensky, Cottage in the Woods, 1903.
Between 1903 and 1907, with Munich as his base, Jawlensky spent much time in France, including in Paris, Brittany and Normandy. In 1903, as Marianne von Werefkin and Georgian artist Alexander Salzmann (1874-1934) traveled in Normandy, Jawlensky was in Paris where he was fascinated with the color and texture of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). That same year, in Munich, Jawlensky attended lectures on aesthetics by Theodor Lipps and met the young, eccentric Austrian printmaker Alfred Kubin (1877-1959). Lipps’ theory of aesthetics involved the overlap of psychology and philosophy creating a framework for the concept of Einfühlung (“empathy”) which, defined as “projecting oneself onto the object of perception,” became a key component of Expressionism.5
In 1904, an over-worked Kubin married Hedwig Gründler, an older widow. In early 1906 Jawlensky painted her portrait in his Munich apartment before the Kubins left Munich to live in Austria. In the 23 x 30 inch, oil-on-cardboard portrait, Jawlensky’s colors and modeling of the face showed the influences of French Impressionism and emergent Fauvism.
Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1903. (Dube, p.114).
Jawlensky, Porträt Hedwig Kubin (Portrait of Hedwig Kubin), 1906, oil on cardboard.
Jawlensky stayed in Reichertshausen in the summer of 1904. A woody hamlet 15 miles east of Heidelburg, Jawlensky painted a series of landscapes. In 1905 he followed up with a series of landscapes at Füssen. Jawlensky made friends with Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), a young Russian painter who relocated to Munich in 1904 in admiration of Jawlensky. Like the older artist, Bechtejeff stayed in Munich until 1914. When Jawlensky visited the 38-year-old German composer Felix vom Rath (1866-1905), son of a wealthy industrialist, Jawlensky saw for the first time at his home a painting by Paul Gauguin (Riders on the Beach of Tahiti, 1902, Essen). At Vom Rath’s home, Jawlensky also met pianist Anna Langenhan-Hirzel (1874-1951).7
Gauguin, Riders on the Beach, 1902, Essen. Jawlensky saw this, his first Gauguin, in a private collection in Germany in 1904.
Jawlensky, Selbstbildnis mit Zylinder (Self-portrait with a top hat), 1904, private collection.
Jawlensky, Hélène im spanischen Kostüm (Hélène in Spanish costume), 1904, Wiesbaden.
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Weinflasche, 1904.
Jawlensky, Marianne von Werfekin, 1905, Switzerland.
Jawlensky, Portrait de Madame Sid, 1905.
Jawlensky, The Hunchback, 1905.
The middle years of the first decade of the 20th century—1905, 1906 and 1907—were key to Jawlensky’s artistic development. It is likely that Jawlensky traveled to France in 1905. He exhibited six paintings in the Paris Salone d’Automne in 1905, the exhibition which gave birth to the Fauves.
In January 1906 Jawlensky returned to St. Petersburg to exhibit nine paintings. As evidenced in his correspondence, he traveled to France in 1906. He visited Paris and Carantec in Brittany which was a region where Gauguin had worked. That same year Jawlensky exhibited ten paintings at the Paris Salone d’Automne in the newly-formed Russian Pavilion organized by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). At the salon, either in 1905 or 1906, Jawlensky met Henri Matisse (1869-1954) whose Fauvist artwork Jawlensky unreservedly admired. During Jawlensky’s visit to France in 1906 he also met Russian painter Elisabeth Ivanowna Epstein (1879-1956) and studied the artwork of Gauguin, Paul Cézanne (who died in October 1906), and Maurice de Vlaminck (1872-1958). Over the next couple of years, Jawlensky wrestled with Cézanne’s influence on his art.8
Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1905 or 1906.
Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Blumen und Früchten, c. 1905.
Jawlensky, Bretonische Bäuerin, 1905.
In 1905 and 1906 Jawlensky painted landscapes and character studies, mainly heads. Following the 1906 exhibition in Paris Jawlensky traveled to the Mediterranean resort town of Sausset-les-Pins outside of Marseilles to continue to paint landscapes. Jawlensky returned to Munich by way of Geneva where he visited Swiss Symbolist artist, Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918).
Ferdinand Hodler, Self Portrait, 1900.
Jawlensky, Self portrait, 1905.
Jawlensky spent the fall of 1906, as evidenced in correspondence, in Wasserburg am Inn outside of Munich. He painted landscapes and portraits.
The next year, in 1907, he returned to Wasserburg for a shorter stay with his 5-year-old son, Andreas. In fall 1907 he went to Paris with Hélène Nesnakomoff and Andreas to view the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne. He also visited at Matisse’s studio. Near Marseilles to paint landscapes alone afterwards, Jawlensky believed that he achieved his primary goal to use color that was autonomous from the object and based on the artist’s inner feeling. This was a major breakthrough for his painting. Jawlensky’s Mittelmeerkűste (Mediterranean Coast) (below) became the result of these searches and his talisman for landscapes going forward.9
Jawlensky, Mittelmeerkűste (Mediterranean Coast), 1907, oil on hardboard, Munich.
Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn, 1907, oil on board.
Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening), 1907, oil on cardboard.
The landscape Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening) provides insight into Jawlensky’s artistic development at this time. Painted at Wasserburg Am Inn outside Munich in 1907, Jawlensky experimented with applying the techniques of French post-Impressionism, especially Van Gogh, Gauguin and Henri Matisse. The painting and others in this period express Jawlensky’s goal of making unnatural color harmonies and giving visual form to the artist’s inner nature or spirituality. In the manner of Van Gogh, Jawlensky used chisel-like brush strokes and, like Gauguin, thick outlining to achieve a rhythmic, flat, two-dimensional landscape.
Following these travels to Wasserburg am Inn, Paris and Marseilles in 1907, Jawlensky was back in Munich at Christmas and met Dutch Symbolist artist Jan Verkade (1868-1946) in January 1908. Verkade was a Dutch post-Impressionist and Symbolist painter who was a member of the French Nabis under Gauguin in Brittany. Verkade taught Jawlensky and Marianne Weferkin about Gauguin’s ideas on Synthetism. A convert to Catholicism in the mid1890s, Verkade became a Benedictine monk and priest and lived at a monastery in nearby Beuron. In 1907 and 1908 Verkade stayed in Munich and at times painted in Jawlensky’s studio. Jawlensky also learned from Verkade about the writings of French theosophist Edouard Schuré (1841-1929) who influenced the Nabis’ art. In 1908 Jawlensky met Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) who painted The Talisman, an icon to Gauguin’s ideas of Synthetism. 10
Jan Verkade, Self-portrait, 1891.
Paul Sérusier, The Talisman, 1888, Musée D’Orsay.
In Munich in 1908 Jawlensky met other significant figures for his art, including the acquaintance of German painter Karl Caspar (1879-1956) and 22-year-old Alexander Sacharoff (1886-1963). Sacharoff was one of Europe’s most innovative solo dancers. Jawlensky formed a lifelong friendship with Sacharoff and painted his portrait several times between 1909 and 1913. Jawlensky’s 1909 portrait of Sacharoff was painted spontaneously one evening when Sacharoff arrived to Jawlensky’s studio before a performance. In his full theater costume, Jawlensky’s portrait of Sacharoff is notable in that it was one of the first examples of the painter’s motif of wide, piercing eyes.11
Jawlensky, Alexander Sacharoff, 1909.
Jawlensky, Girl with Peonies, 1909. Von der Hevdt Museum.
Vincent Van Gogh, La Maison du père Pilon, 49 × 70 cm, May 1890.
In 1908, with the help of Theo van Gogh’s widow, Jawlensky acquired a Van Gogh painting, La maison du Père Pilon. Jawlensky spent the next three summers—in 1908, 1909 and 1910—in southern Bavaria at Murnau am Staffelsee with Hélène Nesnakomoff, Andreas, Marianne von Werefkin, Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter (1877-1962).
In 1909 Jawlensky met Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Baltic German painter Ida Kerkovius (1879-1970), and German Expressionist painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and August Macke (1887-1914). These were all notable figures to the formation of avant-garde expressionism. Jawlensky also met the Ukrainian brothers and avant-garde artists David Burliuk (1882-1967) and Wladimir Burliuk (1886-1917).
Jawlensky’s summer visits to Murnau led to significant development in his painting, This was especially true for his large format portraits. In 1909, his Murnau landscape is a highly stylized reduction of the subject of mountains, trees, and pathway into flat, geometrical forms and harsh, contrasting and unnatural colors influenced by French Cloisonnism and French Cubism. The painting, Murnau landscape, is another example of Gauguin-inspired Synthetism with its high degree of stylization and artificial bright colors. Some of the experimental nature of the painting is indicated by the color samples in the lower righthand corner of the painting.
Jawlensky, Murnauer Landschaft, (Murnau landscape), 1909, oil on cardboard.
It was Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter who discovered Murnau in the spring of 1908 on a bicycle tour. They told Jawlensky about it who visited that summer with Marianne von Werfekin and wrote to Kandinsky to join them. In 1909 Münter and Kandinsky bought a house in Murnau which they called “The Russia House.” The importance of the Bavarian landscape as an inspiration to these artists’ work cannot be underestimated. The Murnau years of 1908 to 1910 was the start and bonding of artists that evolved in 1911 to the formation of The Blue Rider. In 1908 it was Jawlensky’s sharing of his new ideas gained from his visits to France that made him the progressive leader of the group in this period. Accompanied by Marianne von Werfekin, Jawlensky returned to this market town several times where he stayed at Gasthof Griesbräu.12
Jawlensky, Vue de Murnau, c. 1908–1910.
Jawlensky, Skizze aus Murnau (Murnau Sketch), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.
Jawlensky, Weisse Wolke (White Cloud), summer 1909, oil on textured cardboard mounted, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.
Jawlensky, Sommerabend in Murnau (Summer Evening in Murnau), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.
The painting Summer Evening in Murnau is marked by intense colors, dark contours, simple drawing, and a reduction of form reflecting Jawlensky’s understanding of Gauguin’s “Synthetism.” Sérusier had observed that “art is above all a means of expression.” Within the embryonic Blue Rider group of artists before 1911, Gauguin’s “Synthetism” meshed to Wassily Kandinsky’s idea of “inner necessity.” Intense colors and imaginary reduction of forms that marks German Expressionism had its nascent development in Jawlensky’s paintings at Murnau.13
In March 1909 Jawlensky co-founded Neue Künstlervereinigung München (“New Munich Artists”), an exhibition organization to counteract the inability of official academic art to accommodate avant-garde practice in a new century and counteract the Munich Secession, one of the oldest breakaway modern art groups founded in 1892. Before the first NKVM exhibition in Munich in December 1909, Jawlensky, Kandinsky and other artists resigned from the Munich Secession.14
In 1909 Jawlensky. Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, and art historian Oskar Wittenstein and Heinrich Schnabel elected Kandinsky as NKVM president and Jawlensky as vice-president. German magic realist painter Alexander Kanoldt (1881–1939) was appointed secretary and German painter Adolph Erbslöh (1881–1947) was made chairperson of the association’s exhibition committee. German painter and printmaker Paul Baum (1859-1932) joined as did Russian painter Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), and German painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and Carl Hofer (1878-1955). Alexander Sacharoff, Austrian Symbolist printmaker Alfred Kubin, and East European artist Moissey Kogan (1879-1943) soon joined this German avant-garde secession.
The NKVM hosted, in Munich, three annual exhibitions—in 1909, 1910, and 1911. These Munich shows then traveled around Germany. On December 1, 1909 the first New Munich Artists (NKVM) show opened at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It included ten painters, one sculptor, one printmaker and other invited artists. Though half of the exhibitors were Russians, these visual artists showed no similarity in style.15 The first show traveled to Brünn, Elberfeld, Barmen, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, Schwerin, and Frankfurt am Main. It was greeted almost universally with jeers by the public. The critics called it a “carnival hoax” and saw their art as evocative of bad French Impressionism.16
Designed by Kandinsky, the poster advertising for the first exhibition by the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, December 1909. Lenbachhaus, Munich.
The pamphlet for the foundation of the artist association stated, “Our starting point is the idea that the artist not only receives new impressions from the world outside from nature, but that he also gathers experiences in an inner world. And indeed, it seems to us that at the moment more artists are again spiritually united in their search for artistic forms. They are looking for forms that will express the mutual interdependence of all these experiences and which are free from everything irrelevant. The aim is that only those elements which are actually necessary should be expressed with emphasis. In other words, they are striving for an artistic synthesis This seems to us a solution that is once again uniting in spirit an increasing number of artists.”17
Jawlensky, Schwebende Wolke (Floating Cloud), 1909-10, oil on cardboard, 32.9 x 40.8 cm, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.
In 1909 and 1910, working in Murnau am Staffelsee, Alexei Jawlensky took outings into the foothills of the Bavarian Alps to paint. It was a manageable walk for the 45-year-old artist into surrounding mountains and woods. Floating Cloud is one painting that is part of a group of artworks from this period that evokes mountains, clouds and trees. The painting is undated so there is no irrefutable proof it was painted in 1910 — Jawlensky’s final summer stay in Murnau — but its varied and discordant colors and tendency to synthetic composition points to having been created in 1910 or summer 1909.
Its foreground green, dark trees, pink clouds, and orange sky are formal elements found in landscapes from the period. The painting had been later discarded by the artist though under exactly what circumstances is unclear. When World War I began in August 1914, Russian-émigré Jawlensky had to leave works behind in Munich to be retrieved in 1921 and 1922. Floating Cloud was brought to the United States in 1924 by its owner, Galka Scheyer (1889-1945). Jawlensky began his series of monumental heads by 1910 that defined his artwork in the years ahead.
In Floating Cloud, shapes are precisely delineated; the chain of the pine trees’ triangular forms are echoed in the repetition of the mountain chain’s pointed shapes in the background. The clearly defined planes of foreground, middle distance, and background are parallel to the picture plane but compressed into a narrowed, stage-like area. Jawlensky also began many figural drawings of the female nude in 1910 though he did not use them for paintings much. Its formal properties as well as subject is similar to paintings of Henri Matisse in this time period.18
Jawlensky, Sitzender Weiblicher Akt (Seated female nude), c. 1910 oil on cardboard.
Jawlensky, Girl with the Green Face, 1910, oil on hardboard, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Meanwhile Kandinsky’s Blue Mountain in 1908-1909 continued to demonstrate his direction towards abstraction. In the picture, a blue mountain has a yellow and a red tree on each side of it. A procession of human figures and horses crosses in the foreground. Their faces, clothing, and saddles are composed of bold colors, with little linear detail. The flat, contoured colored shapes indicate French Fauvist influences.
Kandinsky, Der Blaue Berg (Blue Mountain), 1908-1909, Guggenheim, New York.
Kandinsky, 1908, oil on card, Murnau, Landschaft mit Turm (Murnau Landscape with Tower Centre), Pompidou, Paris.
Floating Cloud was exhibited by Jawlensky, along with ten other of his paintings, in the important second exhibition of the New Artists’ Association which opened in September 1910 at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. In that second show, Jawlensky also exhibited Child with Doll (Kind mit Puppe). In that painting, the sitter was a local school girl in Murnau. In 1912 Jawlensky returned to the subject of a girl with doll and gave one such picture to Franz Marc.19
Jawlensky, Kind mit Puppe (Child with Doll), c. 1910, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, Norton Simon.
Heinrich Thannhauser (1859-1934) opened his gallery in Munich in 1904. In 1908 it hosted an important exhibition of over ninety works by Vincent van Gogh. The Neue Galerie Thannhauser became the leading proponent of international modern art in Germany in the 1910’s exhibiting French Impressionist and post-Impressionist art as well as German and other international modern artists. Designed by Paul Wenz in the glass-domed Arcopalais developed by Georg Meister and Oswald Bieber at Theatinerstraße 7 in the heart of Munich’s shopping district, several rooms of the Neue Galerie Thannhauser were set up as fashionable domestic environments. With Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in December 1911, Thannhauser organized the first exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter.
Lovis Corinth, Portrait of the Art Dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, 1918, Kimbell.
The second NKVM exhibition is important in that it was the world’s first modern art exhibition that assembled an estimable scope of international artists represented by Germans, French, Russians, and others.
The second exhibition expanded to include French Cubists, including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Postimpressionists, and Fauvists, such as Henri Le Fauconnier, Andre Dérain, Maurice Vlaminck, and Kees van Dongen.20 The historic showing at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser afterwards traveled to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Hagen, Paul Cassirer Berlin, Leipzig, Galerie Arnold Dresden, Munich Weimar, and the Neue Secession Berlin. The exhibition was the precursor of future great international shows such as the Cologne Sonderbund in 1912 and New York Armory Show in 1913. The Armory Show, in which Neue Galerie Thannhauser participated, introduced European Modernism to the United States.
The Munich gallery occupied over 2,600 square feet of the glass-domed Arcopalais and was divided between two floors. Nine exhibition rooms were on the ground floor with a skylit gallery on the floor above. Similar to the first NKVM exhibition, the Munich public derided the offerings of the second. The German press called for its closure as the artists were “anarchists.” A small group of sympathizers gathered to support the avant-garde exhibitions including other modern artists and some German curators, one of whom was afterwards dismissed from his official curatorial posts because he espoused contemporary nonacademic views.21
Picasso, Head of a Woman, spring 1909, gouache, watercolor, and black and ochre chalks, manipulated with stump and wet brush, on cream laid paper. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Gabriele Münter, Landschaft mit weisser mauer (Landscape with a White Wall), 1910, oil on hardboard, Hagen.
The second exhibition catalog had five articles and was illustrated by Picasso’s Head of a Woman. In addition to Jawlensky’s 11 art works, Gabriele Münter exhibited 7 art works, including Landscape with White Wall from 1910. Kandinsky had carefully defined his different categories for a painting—an impression; an improvisation; and a composition.22 Kandinsky exhibited examples of all three at the second NKVM show in September 1910, including Composition no.2 of early 1910 and Improvisation no.12-The Rider painted in summer 1910.
Kandinsky, Improvisation no. 12 The Rider, summer of 1910.
Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921), an important German patron of European avant-garde art, founded the Folkwang Museum at Hagen, Germany, in 1902. Following the second New Artists’ Association exhibition, Osthaus organized an even larger exhibition of Expressionist painting with works by Jawlensky and Kandinsky.
Ida Gerhadi, Portrait of Karl Ernst Osthaus, 1903.
By 1910, with 20 years of art practice, Jawlensky had built up and continued to expand his circle of collectors. His friendship with Cuno Amiet (1868-1961), a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland, likely started in 1909. In Still Life with Vase in 1909 Jawlensky painted in simplified forms, vivid colors, and decorative lines, following the example of Henri Matisse.23 From 1906 to 1911, Jawlensky’s still lifes were influenced by Matisse who Jawlensky met in Paris. In 1909 and 1910 Jawlensky painted still lifes that are among his finest works. Starting in 1911, Jawlensky focused increasingly on the human face. Regarding his still lifes, Jawlensky observed that he was not searching for a material object, but by way of form and color, “want[ing] to express an inner vibration.”24
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Vase und Krug(Still Life with Vase and Jug), 1909, oil on Hardboard, Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Früchten, (Still Life with Fruit), c. 1910, oil on cardboard.
In late 1909 and into early 1910 Marianne von Werefkin visited family in Lithuania. Since the early 1890’s, Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin were a pioneering artist couple of the avant-garde. With the founding of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in 1909, from which The Blue Rider emerged in 1911, individually and as a couple they advanced modernism as a conceptual and creative force making a significant contribution to early 20th century modern art. Each had found the other’s soulmate in which their interpersonal relationship was intense and complex. Lily Klee (1876-1946), wife of painter Paul Klee, wrote in her memoirs that Jawlensky and von Werfekin were “no marriage” but rather “an erotically platonic friendship love.” Though their domestic partnership ended, they remained loyal partners and art colleagues. A wealthy, Russian aristocrat, Von Werfekin was, as a painter and knowledgeable supporter of their theories and ideas, an influential force in the NVKM and Blaue Reiter that benefitted these progressive artists’ work.25
Marianne von Werefkin, Selbstbildnis I (Self portrait I), , c. 1910, tempera on paper on hardboard, Städtische Galerie am Lenbachhaus Munich.
In 1910, Jawlensky met German painter and printmaker Franz Marc (1880-1916) and, in 1911, after seeing the second exhibition of the Neue Künstlervereinigung, Marc joined NKVM. Pierre Girieud and Henri Le Fauconnier also joined. That same year Kandinsky, Marc, and others in the NKVM resigned and founded Der Blaue Reiter.
The approach of Le Fauconnier’s painting influenced by Gauguin and Emile Bernard greatly influenced Jawlensky’s work in this period. Kandinsky’s mediation led to Jawlensky exhibiting 6 paintings in Vladimir Izdebsky’s salon in Odessa and Kiev from December 1909 to February 1910 and again in Odessa at the same venue in December 1910. Jawlensky also exhibited at the Sonderbund Westdeutscher Künstler in Düsseldorf. In 1911 Jawlensky visited Franz Marc in Sindelsdorf, south of Munich and spent that summer with his family and Marianne von Werefkin in far northern Germany. At Prerow on the Baltic Sea he painted landscapes and large figural works in bright strong colors. The artist considered his time at Prerow as “a turning point in my art.”
Jawlensky, Blonde, c. 1911, oil on carboard. The time Jawlensky spent in the summer of 1911 on the Baltic coast was a turning point in his art.
Jawlensky, Blühendes Mädchen (Blossoming Girl),c.1911. Norton Simon. The precise date and the sitter are unknown, and the work was titled much later and not by Jawlensky.
Jawlensky, Turandot I, 1912, Privatsammlung.
In Fall 1911 Jawlensky traveled to Paris with von Werefkin where he saw Matisse, visited with Pierre Paul Girieud (1875-1940) and met Kees van Dongen (1877-1968). Later that year Girieud stayed with Jawlensky in Munich where Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957) visited him in the studio in November. In December 1911 Kandinsky, Marc, Münter, Kubin and Macke resigned from the Neue Künstlervereinigung and Kandinsky and Marc founded Der Blaue Reiter.
The fault line between NKVM and The Blue Rider was over the degree of artistic importance of representation (Kanoldt and Erbslöh) versus nonrepresentation (Kandinsky, Marc, Kubin, Münter) in avant-garde German expressionism. The resignations came after Kandinsky and Marc had forcefully advocated for a jury show and, then, having overcome some other members’ intractable resistance, one of Kandinsky’s large format pictures was rejected by the jury for the 1911 NKVM show.26
Adolf Erbslöh, Mädchen mit rotem Rock (Girl with Red skirt), 1910, Von der Heydt Museum.
Alexander Kanoldt, Nikolaiplatz, 1910-13.
Jawlensky, Yellow Houses, 1909.
Kandinsky in 1910 produced the first painting, a watercolor, that was completely nonrepresentational—Untitled in the collection of the Pompidou in Paris. In late 1911 Kandinsky, seeing his painting as a triumph of art over the external object, published his art theories in a major treatise entitled Über das Geistige in der Kunst (“On the Spiritual in Art”). Kandinsky, who was informed on European modern art currents, synthesized and personalized ideas that were broadly available at the turn of the 20th century—one, that there is an order of pre-eminent human experiences; second, that all artworks possess spiritual or expressive qualities to be researched, expanded to the sensory faculties and refined to and superseded by physical and psychological effects; and, third, that the essential nature of art makes it autonomous of naturalistic external appearances.
Modern, specifically abstract, art, through the artist’s practice of relaying his emotive and spiritual qualities can, within the broad engagement of culture as well as art that possesses an autonomous spiritual-expressionist nature, can become a barometer for social progress and gauge the spirit of the age.
Since art is the embodiment of spirit or expression, Kandinsky postulated no specific formal or stylistic language—form is meaningless apart from the expression, the making visible, of the artist’s inner reality. This is true for the “great” avenues of realism or abstraction. The immediate use of Cubist and Futurist forms dematerialized further into a spiritual significance of colors and nonrepresentational forms in Abstract Expressionism.27
The third and final NKVM show was held in December 1911 at Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It featured 58 paintings and 8 illustrations by eight of the original and early member artists, namely, Jawlensky, Adolf Erbslöh, Alexander Kanoldt, Erma Barrera-Bossi, Wladimir von Bechtejeff, Moissey Kogan, Pierre Girieud and Marianne von Werefkin. It was hardly mentioned in the German press.
The show closed on January 12, 1912 and likely did not travel though scheduled to do so. In the same month of December 1911 and in the same gallery Der Blaue Reiter hosted its first exhibition. Though Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin sympathized with Kandinsky and der Blaue Reiter, they did not follow into the group until 1912.
Neither did Jawlensky follow Kandinsky into nonrepresentational abstract art. He continued with representational motifs. Jawlensky was more concerned with synthesis—a term and practice with a broad, diverse, and even contradictory definition. For Jawlensky, synthesis occurred between impressions of the outer world and experiences of the artist’s inner world. In terms of his art, it involved the “outer” object and “inner” expressive, unnatural colors. It involved the “outer” pictorial composition and “inner” colors and forms, with these categorical elements being fluid in terms of their opposition.
Kandinsky, Untitled, 1910, watercolor, Indian Ink and pencil on paper. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Reputedly the first nonrepresentational (abstract) painting.
Franz Marc, Pferd in Landschaft (Horse in a Landscape), 1910, oil on canvas, Folkwang Museum, Essen.
Jawlensky, Hügel (Hills), 1912, oil on hardboard, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund.
Jawlensky, Landschaft mit gelbem Schornstein (Blue mountains landscape with yellow chimney), 1912, Museum Wiesbaden.
Jawlensky, Jünglingskopf (Head of a Young Man, called Hercules), 1912, oil on hardboard, Dortmund.
Kandinsky, Der Blaue Rider (The Blue Rider), 1903, private collection.
1. German Unification – Confronting Identities in German Art: Myth, Reactions, Reflections, Smart Museum, Chicago, 2002, pamphlet.
11. Sacharoff portrait—Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.
12. Murnau art colony—Watson, German Genius, pp. 516-518; progressive artist- Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus; Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002, p. 84.
13. Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.
14. Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974. p.185.
15. ibid., p 186 and 191.
16. First NKVM exhibition travel cities–Hoberg, not paginated; carnival hoax—Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p. 191.
17. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 168; Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p 191; Watson, German Genius, p. 516.
18. Selz, p. 195; Barnett, p. 86.
19. Barnett, p. 90.
20. Hoberg (not paginated); Selz, p.193.
21. Selz, p. 196.
22. “An impression is a direct impression of nature, expressed in purely pictorial form. An improvisation is a largely unconscious, spontaneous expression of inner character, non-material nature. A composition is an expression of a slowly formed inner feeling, tested and worked over repeatedly and almost pedantically. Reason, conscious, purpose, play an overwhelming part. But of calculation nothing appears: only feeling…” Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, quoted in Selz, p.196.
23. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 169.
24. Hoberg, not paginated.
25. Elgar, Expressionism, p.177.
26. Selz, p. 197.
27. Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000, p 86); Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971, pp. 126-127; Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983, p. 203).
Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002.
Boyle, Nicholas, German Literature: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2008.
Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971.
Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, Oxford University Press, New York and Toronto, 1972.
Elger, Dietmar, Expressionism: A Revolution in German Art, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 1998.
Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000.
Hoberg, Annegret, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, Prestel, Munich, 1989.
Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983.
Koldehoff, Stefan and Chris Stolwijk, editors, The Thannhauser Gallery: Marketing Van Gogh, Mercatorfonds, Brussels, 2018.
Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974.
Taylor, A.J.P., Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman, Vintage Books, New York, 1967 (originally 1955).
Watson, Peter, The German Genius : Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, HarperCollins, 2010.