Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut) is one of the most powerful and stylised of all Jawlensky's female portraits of 1910. Her exotic appearance and elaborate appeal notwithstanding, the model was a young girl from a village near Munich. Before posing in Jawlensky's cold studio, she liked to drink a cup of hot chocolate and her requests for 'a cup of Schokko' led to the nickname given to her by the Jawlenskys.
Looking back at the pre-war years, the artist himself identified this phase in his career as crucial: 'I painted my finest...figure paintings in powerful, glowing colours and not at all naturalistic or objective. I used a great deal of red, blue, orange, cadmium yellow and chromium-oxide green. My forms were very strongly contoured in Prussian blue and came with tremendous power from an inner ecstasy...It was a turning point in my art. It was in these years up to 1914, just before the war, that I painted my most powerful works' (quoted in 'Memoir dictated to Lisa Kümmel, 1937', in M. Jawlensky, L. Pieroni-Jawlensky & A. Jawlensky, op.cit., p. 31). This range of bright vivid colours is present in Schokko: the violet in the background is slightly cool in relation to the magnificent fiery red of the model's blouse, and consequently appears to recede as the blouse projects forward. Another striking colour combination occurs in the yellow-green planes of the face and the richly varied palette in the large, elaborate hat.
In both its choice of theme and style of execution, the present work draws on a rich tradition of modernist painting, including the art of, amongst others, Matisse and Van Dongen (fig. 3). The short, thick brush-strokes and the juxtaposition of brighter and cooler tones reflect the influence of Van Gogh and Cézanne. In 1905 Jawlensky's works were exhibited at the Salon d'Automne in Paris alongside those of the Fauve artists, whose work exerted the strongest influence on the development of Jawlensky's style in the following years. His abandonment of the representational function of colour in favour of a more spontaneous, expressive one is strongly reminiscent of Matisse's portraits at the height of his Fauve period.
Although often associated with the German Expressionists, Jawlensky's art is firmly robed in a wider Modern European tradition. Of Russian birth and privileged background, Jawlensky traveled extensively after leaving Russia for Munich in 1896 and was exposed to a wide range of influences. Between 1903 and 1907 he made frequent trips to France where he came under the influence not only of the great predecessors of the modern movement, Cézanne and van Gogh, but also of the Neo-Impressionists and Matisse. The example of Van Gogh meant so much to him, that although he could ill afford it, he purchased Van Gogh's La maison du Père Pilon (de la Faille no. F791) in 1908.
A recognizable likeness, present in his earlier portraits, was not an issue when Jawlensky asked the model Schokko to pose for him. The forms, heavily outlined in black, have been simplified to the bold arcs that define the rim of the hat and the sweep of the shoulders. The face has been simplified to a boldly modelled mask rendered in yellow and green, while the eyes are lowered and half-closed in shadow. The present work contrasts markedly with the painting that was originally on the reverse of the board (Schokko mit rotem Hut, 1909, Private Collection, New York), which was subsequently split by the artist.
In a famous letter orignially thought to have been written by Jawlensky but now attributed to Marianne von Werefkin, Jawlensky's companion, the extent of his indebtedness to the Fauve artists and their ideas is readily apparent: 'My temperament having led me to colour, it is this that I entrust with the task of reproducing my ideas and emotions as inspired by the nature I find around me. But the thing which never leaves me and which leads me through all the experiences of an artist's life is the thought that life is the object of creative art neither in its dead, material aspect nor in the rigid form of moral reflections. Art is there to reproduce the things which are not, which at most have only a potential existence...To reproduce these things that are there without being, to reveal them to others by allowing them to pass through the passion which I feel for them...that is the goal of my life as an artist. Apples, trees, human faces are for me the only suggestions to see something else in them - the life of colour, seized with a lover's passion' (quoted in Clemens Weiler, Jawlensky: Heads, Faces, Meditations, London, 1970, p. 105).
The summers of 1908 and 1909 spent in Murnau in the company of Marianne von Werefkin, Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter saw the evolution of a personal style that culminated in the series of landscapes of the Bavarian countryside and the large-scale portraits of friends such as Bildnis des Tänzers Sacharoff, circa 1909 (fig. 4) and the present work.
According to Anne Mochon, 'the paintings of female models in exotic or elegant costumes assumed a theatrical remove unlike anything Jawlensky had done previously. Witnessing the dancer Sacharoff's transformations in costume and pose seems to have opened a new interpretative realm for the artist, allowing for contrasting layers of erotic meanings. The role-playing imagery inrigued him, and he used a variety of model types in diverse costume. As he began to focus on the female face to the exclusion of other figure types during 1911 and 1912, several personality types emerged in his work. Schokko (Schokko mit Tellerhut) depicts a mannequin-like image of a fashionable young woman, whose erotic appeal is presented as a contrast of opposites in content as well as form. Her mask-like face suggests sexual remoteness but is surrounded by flagrant reds, clashing with the rosier ground. Unlike Matisse's striking use of colour opposites in Femme au chapeau, 1905 (fig. 1), which Jawlensky must have seen in 1905, the colour clashes in Schokko with a Wide-brimmed Hat create emotional rather than purely visual responses' (Anne Mochon, 'Introduction', in Alexej Jawlensky: From Appearance to Essence (exhibition catalogue), Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California, 1991, pp. 20-21).
Oil on board laid down on canvas
Alexej von Jawlensky
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1964, no. 49
Frankfurt, Kunstverein & Hamburg, Kunstverein, Alexej von Jawlensky, 1967, no. 13, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Fauves and Expressionists, 1968, no. 35, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Allentown, Pennsylvania, Art Museum, The Blue Four and German Expressionism, 1974, no. 15, illustrated in colour on the back cover of the catalogue
New York, Leonard Hutton Galleries, Der Blaue Reiter und sein Kreis, 1977, no. 21, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus & Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Alexej Jawlensky 1864-1941, 1983, no. 67, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1910)
London, Royal Academy of Arts & Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, German Art in the 20th Century, Painting and Sculpture 1905-1985, 1985-86, no. 48, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Turin, Lingotto, Arte russa e sovietica 1870-1930, 1989, no. 109, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Madrid, Fundació Juan March & Barcelona, Museo Picasso, Alexej von Jawelensky, 1992, no. 36
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Figures du Moderne, L'Expressionnisme en Allemagne 1905 à 1914, 1992-93, no. 221
Bietigheim-Bissingen, Städtische Galerie, Alexej von Jawlensky : Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, 1994, no. 13, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Murnau, Schlossmuseum des Marktes, Alexej von Jawlensky: Frühe Portrats 1908-1913, 1995
Dortmund, Museum am Ostwall, Von der Brücke zum Blauen Reiter- Farbe, Form und Ausdruck in der deutschen Kunst von 1905 bis 1914, 1996
Roslyn Harbour, New York, Nassau County Museum of Art, Feminine Image, 1997, no. 3
Basel, Kunsthaus, on loan (1997-2002)
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Le Fauvisme ou 'l'épreuve du feu': Éruption de la modernité en Europe, 1999-2000, no. 151
75 by 65.1cm., 29 1/2 by 25 5/8 in.
Clemens Weiler, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1959, no. 57, illustrated p. 230 (as dating from 1910)
Ewald Rathke, Alexej Jawlensky, Hanau, 1968, no. 13
Jürgen Schultze, Alexej Jawlensky, Cologne, 1970, no. 4, illustrated p. 63
Nessa Forman, 'A different League', in The Sunday Bulletin, Philadelphia, 31st March 1974, illustrated in colour
Erich W. Wolf, 'Alexej Jawlensky. Ein leuchtendes Erbe', in Pan, no. 6, Offenburg, June 1983, illustrated in colour pp. 3 & 93
Mariatheresia Gehrke, 'Im Gesicht tritt die Seele ans Fenster', in Chic, Cologne, September 1983, illustrated p. 16
'Jawlensky 1985', in Calendar, Hanau, 1984, illustrated in colour on the cover
'Acht Jahrzehnte deutscher Kunst', in Art, no. 10, October 1985, illustrated in colour p. 22
Charles Doria (ed.), Russian Samizdat Art, New York, 1986, illustrated p. 41
'Alexej Jawlensky, 1987', in Calendar, Munich, June 1987, illustrated
Alexej Jawlensky: From Appearance to Essence (exhibition catalogue), Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California, 1991, fig. 9, illustrated p. 21 (titled Schokko with a Wide-brimmed hat and dating from 1910)
Angelica Jawlensky, 'Dear Jawlensky', in FMR, Milan & New York, Februrary 1991, no. 48, illustrated p. 127
Maria Jawlensky, Lucia Pieroni-Jawlensky & Angelica Jawlensky Bianconi, Alexej von Jawlensky, Catalogue Raisonné of the Oil-Paintings, 1890-1914, London, 1991, vol. I, no. 318, illustrated in colour p. 250
Itzhak Goldberg, 'Le Cavalier bleu', 'Expressionnisme Allemand', in Beaux-Arts, Paris, November 1992, illustrated p. 34
The Art Book, London, 1994, illustrated p. 235
'Jawlensky Besucher-Magnet' (exhibition review), in Murnauer Tagblatt, Murnau & Paris, 1995, illustrated
Jean-Claude Marcadé, L'Avant-Garde Russe, Paris, 1995, illustrated pl. XVII
'Schokko bleibt vorerst in Basel', in Basler Zeitung, Basel, 28th-29th June 1997, no. 148, illustrated p. 39
Véronique Prat, 'Les Fauves - Ceux par qui le scandale est arrivé' (exhibition review), in Le Figaro Magazine, Paris, 13th November 1999, illustrated
The State Russian Museum, Alexej Jawlensky: A Biography, St. Petersburg, 2000, illustrated p. 71
Estate of the artist
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in the late 1960s; sale: Sotheby's, New York, 5th November 2003, lot 20)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner