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Alexei von Jawlensky

21 June - 10 September 2000
Stroganov Palace

On 21 June 2000, the Russian Museum opened an exhibition of the works of Alexei von Jawlensky. One of the most renowned artists of the Russian avant-garde, Jawlensky's works are virtually unknown in his former homeland of Russia. Alexei von Jawlensky was born in 1864. Although he received a classical art education at the Imperial Academy of Arts in St Petersburg, the works of his academic period are more influenced by the Realist schooling he received from Ilya Repin. After graduating from the Academy in 1896, Jawlensky moved to Munich, where he was soon joined by fellow Russian artists Wassily Kandinsky, David Burliuk, Vladimir Bekhteyev, Alexander Salzman and Moisei Kogan. In the course of his creative quests and experiments, Alexei von Jawlensky developed his own original painterly manner and style. In 1902, the artist broke with the academic traditions of painting, preferring to paint portraits, still-lifes and landscapes. He remained true to these forms until the early 1920s, conveying his sensations through colour and always searching for his own manner of painting. Between 1905 and 1907, Jawlensky paid tribute to Fauvism. The influence of Fauvism in his works of this period can be clearly seen. After a period of emigration in Switzerland, Jawlensky returned to Germany, where he felt the first symptoms of paralysis. In 1929, the artist began to suffer complete paralysis of the hands and knee-joints. He continued to work, however, creating his last great series - the Meditations. The human face, which had always been the focus of the artist's attention, was taken to the utmost level of abstraction; Jawlensky depicted both a human face and an Orthodox cross. Despite being in great pain, he continued to work with his brush tied to his paralysed hand. Amazingly, he managed to paint around 1600 Meditations in the last three years of his professional career. This series is unprecedented in the history of twentieth-century art. This unique retrospective exhibition at the Stroganov Palace traced the entire oeuvre of Alexei von Jawlensky, an artist who now ranks alongside such great twentieth-century masters as Wassily Kandinsky and Marc Chagall. The show consisted of some eighty works, painted by Jawlensky between 1882 and 1937, from museums and private collections in Germany, Switzerland and Russia, including the Museum am Ostwall (Dortmund), Omsk Picture Gallery, Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), Hermitage (St Petersburg) and the Russian Museum (St Petersburg).