Alexej von Jawlensky was a Russian-German painter who also worked in Switzerland and Germany. As an expressionist painter, Jawlensky was part of the group of artists known as Der Blaue Reiter initiated by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc.
In 1904/1905 the first Japonisms appeared in Jawlensky's oeuvre. Under the stylistic influence of van Gogh, two still lifes with a Japan doll were created at that time as "motivic Japonisms". From this time on, one can increasingly observe a peculiarity that was to become one of Jawlensky's trademarks. It is the habit of framing his paintings with a dark blue or black-blue line. Their origin is seen as an adoption from Japanese woodblock printmaking, which Jawlensky already knew at that time and possibly already collected. It is also conceivable, however, that he became acquainted with this type of framing by the Nabis.
The most famous Japanese influenced paintings by Jawlensky are his portraits of the dancer Sacharoff. The portraits in the Lenbachhaus in Munich and in the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart with the title The White Pen have a poster-like effect. A special position is occupied by his lady with fan in the Museum Wiesbaden, who also depicts the dancer Sacharoff, who was often painted in women's clothes.
Among Jawlensky's outstanding paintings in 1912 is his Self-Portrait, a grandiose staging of himself that would not be possible without Japanese models. For many viewers, the self-portrait has an alienating effect and reminds them of something foreign. The unusual, exotic-looking application of paint to the face also contributes to this. On the other hand, a look at the surviving sheets of Jawlensky's Japan collection, especially the actor portrait of Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), makes it clear that Japanese art is a source of his artistic inspiration.
When Jawlensky became acquainted with Japanese woodblock prints and drew from them to renew his own work, an open-mindedness for Japanese art was already a tradition in Western art history. But he transformed himself like no European painter before him, capturing the Japanese mastery of capturing characters and portraying moods as his trademark. Not only is the expressionist work of the "head painter" Jawlensky influenced by this, but it extends through the series of his variations, Mystical Heads, Saviour's Faces, Abstract Heads and Christ's Heads to the meditations of his late work.