Meditation (Kleiner abstrakter Kopf), signed with initials and dated 1934.
Oil on paper, laid on cardboard, 15.5 by 12 cm.
Provenance: Galka Scheyer, Hollywood, 1934. Lette Valeska, New York/Los Angeles. Private collection, USA. Anonymous sale; Impressionist and Modern Day Sale, Christie’s New York, 9 November 2006, Lot 407. Private collection, Europe.
Exhibited:Alexej Jawlensky: A Centennial Exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham; Winnipeg Art Gallery; University Art Gallery, University of California at Berkeley; University Art Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Isaac Delgado Museum of Art, New Orleans, April 1964–January 1966, No. 177.
Literature: C. Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Köln, M. DuMont Schauberg, 1959, p. 256, No. 396 c, illustrated in black and white.
M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky and A. Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky. Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil Paintings, London, 1993, vol. III, p. 52, No. 1484; p. 64, illustrated.
The Meditations are not only Jawlensky’s final series, but they are also among the most significant and accomplished works in his oeuvre. In these paintings, the human face is reduced to its essentials and colour becomes an autonomous, expressive means of portraying human emotions. In the words of the artist’s granddaughter,
Angelica Jawlensky Bianconi, “the Meditations are a highpoint
of stylization and control of colour: Jawlensky’s collective masterpiece.”
Jawlensky began this series in 1934, when the deterioration of his health forced him to paint in small format. As he later recalled
in his memoir, “the stiffness in my elbows and wrists has tremendously
hindered my painting and I have had to find a new technique. All the work of my final period has been in small format, but my paintings have become even deeper and more spiritual, speaking purely through colour. Feeling that because of my illness I would not be able to paint very much longer, I worked like a man
possessed on these little Meditations. And now I leave these small,
but certainly for me important, works to posterity and to those who love art.”
The present example figures along with eleven other Meditations in the list of works that Jawlensky sent to Galka E. Schleyer, his friend and agent in America, in 1934. In a letter to her said of
these paintings: “These 12 works are all very different, but they are all interesting […] They are all beautiful. They need to be looked at up close.”