Artist biographies

Alexej von Jawlensky

Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941) abandoned his career as an officer in the Imperial Guards to study with Ilya Repin at the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg (1890-96). In 1896 he moved to Munich with the artist Marianne von Werefkin. There he met Kandinsky whose expressionist work would always inspire him. Between 1903 and 1907 Jawlensky lived mainly in France, where he was influenced by Neo-Impressionism and Fauvism. In 1907 the artist briefly worked with Matisse, whose use of colour he greatly admired. He was also impressed by Van Gogh’s work and bought a painting by the Dutch artist in 1908. In the period 1908-1909 Jawlensky lived and worked with Kandinsky, Münter and Werefkin in Murnau in southern Bavaria, where he mainly painted landscapes, and a number of portraits. Jawlensky served as an important link to a number of modern art movements and thus exerted a considerable influence on other artists. In 1909 he founded the Neue Künstlerverein of Munich with Kandinsky; the following year they left this association together to form Der Blaue Reiter with like-minded artists. Over the course of his career Jawlensky concentrated increasingly on portraits, which often featured sitters with a penetrating stare; these grew progressively more abstract. From 1924 Jawlensky and Kandinsky combined forces with Paul Klee and Lyonel Feininger to form Der Blaue Vier, a group that exhibited in the United States as well as in Europe. In the late 1920s Jawlensky developed the first signs of arthritis, which made painting increasingly difficult for him in the 1930s, and eventually impossible. He died in Wiesbaden in 1941.

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