Alexej von Jawlensky - Portrait Frau Kirchhoff
Alexej von Jawlensky
Portrait Frau Kirchhoff
1925 N. 46
Oil on linen-structured paper on card 42.4 x 32.6 cm Framed (original framing comprised in museum framing). Monogrammed 'A.J.' in red lower left. A personal dedication by Helene von Jawlensky and André Jawlensky to the previous owner, Wiesbaden, Christmas 1956, in black India ink on the verso of the old frame backing. - In fine original condition. Some tiny age-related, unobtrusive specks of soiling.
Heinrich Kirchhoff first purchased five paintings by Alexej von Jawlensky from Jawlensky's major solo exhibition presented at the Neues Museum Wiesbaden in 1921 and, previously, at the Galerie Schames in Frankfurt. Based on current knowledge, his collection is said to have included somewhat more than 120 works by the artist. Jawlensky remained extremely close attached not just to him, but also to his family and his wife Tony Kirchhoff. An enduring and trusting relationship and very warm social interaction developed between them (see exhib. cat. Wiesbaden 2017/2018, op. cit., pp. 291 f.). The artist was impressed by the social circle established by Heinrich Kirchhoff, which was creative and very knowledgeable about art, and he decided to remain in Wiesbaden in 1921/1922. He would live and work in the immediate neighbourhood of his friend and patron's villa.
The work offered here remained in the artist's possession and was first presented as a personal gift to a friend of the family by Helene Jawlensky. It is one of a number of portraits Jawlensky created of Tony Kirchhoff and we quickly recognise that, artistically, the intention was not necessarily a likeness, not the individual representation of the person, but an abstracted, artistic synthesis. This female head with wavy hair is turned slightly to the right and possesses an almost classicising ideality. Conceived with a statuesque grandeur in its form, the drawing of details has been limited to essential indices defined through dark contour lines. The sitter's gaze appears absent, as though turned inward in contemplation. The composition, whose central vertical and horizontal axes subtly approach the golden ratio, generates a calm and harmonious aura, and a lasting impression seems to be made on the eye of the viewer. The classic form is complemented by an expressive, but gently moderated and chromatic use of colour, and the features of the face are modelled in open brushwork that does not completely cover the ground of the painting. The blacks on the painted surface additionally seem to have been retroactively softened and blurred by Jawlensky, and their severity has been reduced, but without threatening the clarity of the picture's composition or the effect of its colours. In his art Jawlensky successfully depicts a paradox: the abstracted female portrait appears anonymised, deliberately removed from its history in Wiesbaden and its time - simultaneously, as a portrait it is thoroughly “modern”, almost stylish, veritably breathing the spirit of the 1920s.
Comparative illustration: Jawlensky in Wiesbaden early 1920s (photo from the estate of Mieze Binsack, née Kirchhoff, Wiesbaden)
From: R. Zieglgänsberger u. S. Discher (ed.), Der Garten der Avantgarde. Heinrich Kirchhoff. Ein Sammler von Jawlensky, Klee, Nolde…, exhib. cat. Museum Wiesbaden 2017/2018, p. 329 (in the middle Alexej von Jawlensky, to the left Tony and Heinrich Kirchhoff with daughter Maria Kirchhoff)
List of works
M. Jawlensky/Pieroni-Jawlensky/Angelica Jawlensky 1229
According to kind confirmatory advice from Angelica Jawlensky Bianconi, Alexej von Jawlensky-Archiv S.A. Muralto, the painting could probably be dated circa 1926 (Cat. Rais. "1925")
Artist's estate, Helene Jawlensky; gift to the former owner; Private possession, Wiesbaden (1956), in family possession since
Frankfurt/Hamburg 1967 (Frankfurter Kunstverein/Hamburger Kunstverein), Jawlensky, cat. no. 46 with illus. ("Bildnis Frau T.K."); Wiesbaden 1991 (Museum Wiesbaden), Alexej von Jawlensky zum 50. Todesjahr. Gemälde und graphische Arbeiten, cat. no. 64 with colour illus. p. 128; Wiesbaden 2017/2018 (Museum Wiesbaden), Der Garten der Avantgarde. Heinrich Kirchhoff: Ein Sammler von Jawlensky, Klee, Nolde..., without cat. no., p. 332 with colour illus.; Museum Wiesbaden 2013-2018, permanent loan from private possession