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Feather Hat - Olga, c. 1912

Alexei Jawlensky

Russian, 1864-1941
Oil on textured wove paper, mounted on canvas
21 x 19-1/2 in. (53.3 x 49.5 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
P.1953.080
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Not on view

After several years of service in the Russian army, Alexei Jawlensky landed in Saint Petersburg and enrolled in the Academy of Art. Seven years of schooling there led him to search for a personal style beyond the stultifying rigidity of academia, so he moved to Munich. In the blossoming art scene of the German city, he befriended another Russian expatriate, Vasily Kandinsky. Alongside his countryman, Jawlensky experimented with line, color and form in ways that would inform the rest of his career. Jawlensky repeatedly executed portraits, at first enlivening the background, the costume and the sitter’s face with color, as in Feather Hat—Olga (the picture is thought to depict Olga von Hartmann, a friend of Marianne von Werefkin, Jawlensky’s companion). Around the time of this picture, Jawlensky visited with Henri Matisse and Emil Nolde, an experience that led him to strip his portraits of potentially distracting information and instead focus only on the face. This later approach can be seen in the portrait of Hélène Nesnakomov (b. 1881), mother to Jawlensky’s only son, Andreas. Here Jawlensky defines the sitter’s face—now occupying nearly the entire picture plane—with blotches of contrasting turquoise, orange, plum, brown and black.

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