Alexei Jawlensky. Head I (Kopf I) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)

Alexei Jawlensky Head I (Kopf I) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe) (1922)

  • Not on view

Alexei Jawlensky's portfolio of six lithographs addresses the artist's main subject: the human face. Jawlensky did not consider his images of faces to be portraits; they were, rather, meditations on mystical and spiritual concerns. As he once remarked, "For me the face is not just a face but the whole universe. In the face, the whole universe is revealed."

Jawlensky constructed these heads through an economical process, using only the barest number of black lines and dots—no more than eighteen marks in each composition—that he carefully plotted and painstakingly rendered. He varied the tilt and torsion of the faces from one composition to the other. Privately, he worried that these black-and-white prints lacked meaning, which he usually created through color. He embellished some of the compositions by tracing the black lines with watercolors, as he did in the Museum's five impressions.

Jawlensky rarely made prints (fewer than thirty are known, as opposed to more than 2,000 oil paintings). In the early 1920s, however, the print market offered artists lucrative rewards, and the financially strapped Jawlensky took advantage of the opportunity to make this portfolio for the contemporary art society in Wiesbaden, where he had recently settled.

Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.
Lithograph with watercolor additions
composition (irreg.): 12 3/8 x 7 7/8" (31.5 x 20 cm); sheet: 19 5/8 x 15 11/16" (49.8 x 39.8 cm)
Nassauischer Kunstverein, Neues Museum Wiesbaden
Vereinigte Druckereien, Wiesbaden
100 (deluxe edition: 1-20 signed on "japan"; regular edition: 21-100 signed on "Bütten" paper [this ex.])
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Victor Thaw
Object number
© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Heads (Köpfe)
Drawings and Prints

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].