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Gallery Text

The Russian painter Jawlensky was a key figure among the expressionist artists in Munich who formed the Blaue Reiter group in 1911. Seeking to infuse their art with spiritual feeling in a materialistic age, the expressionists employed vibrant, non-naturalistic colors, which they applied to the canvas in thick, expressive brushstrokes. Head of a Woman (BR51.267) exemplifies Jawlensky’s work from this period while reflecting his increasing preoccupation with the subject of the human face, in which he believed “the whole universe is revealed.” Painted more than a decade later, Composition No. 1, Sunrise (BR65.37) is part of his series Abstract Heads, in which the face is greatly simplified, becoming a kind of geometric template. Although the colors are still brilliant, the paint is now thinly and precisely applied. Often compared to Russian religious icons, these heads are no longer portraits but meditations on spiritual concerns, emotions, natural elements, and times of day.

Like other paintings in this gallery, these works were recently reframed to reflect the artist’s historical choices. The black period frame is similar to those favored by Jawlensky, while the other is an exact replica of a “Vinecky frame,” named after the sculptor Josef Vinecky, who designed them with the painter. While many expressionist artists chose simple frame profiles, either painted black or sometimes with a gold-bronze finish, Jawlensky’s selection of a more ornamental molding is a surprising choice given the simplicity of his abstracted composition.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
BR65.37
People
Alexei von Jawlensky, Russian (Torzhok, Russia 1864 - 1941 Wiesbaden, Germany)
Title
Composition No. 1, Sunrise
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Komposition Nr 1, Sonnenaufgang
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
c. 1924
Culture
German
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/222647
Location
Level 1, Room 1500, Modern and Contemporary Art, Art in Germany Between the Wars
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on composition board
Dimensions
42 x 30.5 cm (16 9/16 x 12 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: in oil at l.l.: A.j.
  • inscription: on verso, handwritten, German, in artist's hand: Komposition N. 1 [based upon cat. rais.; not examined]
  • inscription: on verso, handwritten, German, in artist's hand: Sonnenaufgang [based upon cat. rais.; not examined]
  • inscription: on verso, handwritten: 604 [based upon cat. rais.; not examined]
Provenance
[Saidenberg Gallery, New York]. Herbert and Nanette Rothschild Fund, Inc., New York, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 2 February 1963, transfer; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1965.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Herbert and Nannette Rothschild
Copyright
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Accession Year
1965
Object Number
BR65.37
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Maria Jawlensky and Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky, Alexej von Jawlensky : catalogue raisonné of the oil paintings, vol. 2, Sotheby's Publications (London, 1991-1998), cat. no. 1218, color ill. p. 388

Exhibition History

Works from the 20th Century Collection of the Busch-Reisinger, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 06/15/1980 - 09/01/1980; Wildenstein Gallery, New York, New York, 09/23/1980 - 10/24/1980

20th-Century Works on Paper from the Permanent Collection, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 09/07/1981 - 11/11/1981

19th- and 20th-Century Works on Paper from the Permanent Collection, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 02/08/1982

Deutsche Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts aus dem Busch-Reisinger Museum, Stadtische Galerie im Stadelschen Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, 10/23/1982 - 01/16/1983; Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin 30, 02/10/1983 - 04/17/1983; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 05/08/1983 - 06/26/1983

German Painting 1760-1960: A New Installation, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 12/20/1983 - 02/19/1984

32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu