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Mystical Head: Galka, 1917

Alexei Jawlensky

Russian, 1864-1941
Oil and pencil on tan textured cardboard
15-1/2 x 12 in. (39.4 x 30.5 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
© Norton Simon Museum

Not on view

The magnificent collection of Jawlensky paintings came to the Norton Simon Museum from the collection of Emmy (Galka) Scheyer, a lifelong friend and promoter of the artist's work. A 1916 visit to an exhibition of Jawlensky's paintings prompted art student Emmy Scheyer to meet the artist; in 1917 she spent several months with his family in Switzerland, where she served as a model for his new group of portraits. Jawlensky frequently talked about the spiritual language of painting. This head, with its tilted pose, its prominent eyes, brow, and line of the nose, as well as its richness of surface, is reminiscent of the religious imagery of the artist's Russian youth. Scheyer returned to Germany in 1919; it was during this period of separation that Jawlensky wrote to her of a dream he had experienced in which she appeared to him in the form of a bird. From that time on, Jawlensky referred to her as "Galka," the Russian word for blackbird.

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