Helene

Helene
Artist:
Alexei Jawlensky (Russian, 1864-1941)
Date:
1916
Medium:
Oil and pencil on pink-gray cardboard 
Dimensions:
9-1/4 x 6-7/8 in. (23.5 x 17.5 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection 
Accession Number:
P.1953.144 
Copyright:
© Norton Simon Museum 
Not on View
Description

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, Vassily 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 this 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.

Provenance:

The artist;
Galka Scheyer, probably in the 1920s;
Pasadena Art Institute, Pasadena, 1953-1954;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena,1954-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, 1975.

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