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German Expressionism

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THE COLLECTION

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From the portfolio

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  • Alexei Jawlensky. Head I (Kopf I) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
    Head I (Kopf I) from the portfolio...
    (1922)
    Alexei Jawlensky. Head I (Kopf I) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
  • Alexei Jawlensky. Head II (Kopf II) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
    Head II (Kopf II) from the...
    (1922)
    Alexei Jawlensky. Head II (Kopf II) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
  • Alexei Jawlensky. Head III (Kopf III) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
    Head III (Kopf III) from the...
    (1922)
    Alexei Jawlensky. Head III (Kopf III) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
  • Alexei Jawlensky. Head IV (Kopf IV) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
    Head IV (Kopf IV) from the...
    (1922)
    Alexei Jawlensky. Head IV (Kopf IV) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
  • Alexei Jawlensky. Head VI (Kopf VI) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)
    Head VI (Kopf VI) from the...
    (1922)
    Alexei Jawlensky. Head VI (Kopf VI) from the portfolio Heads (Köpfe). (1922)

About the portfolio

Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.

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.

Alexei Jawlensky (Russian, 1864–1941)

The Portfolio

Heads (Köpfe)

Date:
(1922)
Medium:
Five prints from a portfolio of six lithographs with watercolor additions
Dimensions:
composition (each approx.): 11 5/8 x 9 3/16" (29.5 x 23.4 cm); sheet (each approx.): 19 5/8 x 15 3/4" (49.9 x 40 cm)
Paper:
Beige, smooth, wove.
Publisher:
Nassauischer Kunstverein, Neues Museum Wiesbaden
Printer:
Vereinigte Druckereien, Wiesbaden
Reference:
Rosenbach 18-23. Rifkind 1341.
MoMA Number:
Portfolio_Jawlensky_Heads
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