2020: Art on the move

Photo: Museum Wiesbaden/Bernd Fickert

Currently on display at the Wiesbaden Museum but not viewable at present due to the coronavirus are four works by Alexej von Jawlensky from the Reinhard Ernst Collection. They are part of the Soulmates exhibition and have only been shown publicly on one occasion  – at an exhibition of the Constitutional Rights Foundation in 1969. The history of these works is interesting.

As far as we know, von Jawlensky created the four works in Switzerland between 1916 and 1920. They were initially entitled Variations and came into the possession of his lover Marianne von Werefkin. The painter held on to these artworks even after separating from von Jawlensky in 1921. From Werefkin’s estate they were bequeathed to her nephew Alexander von Werefkin in 1938 and then found a temporary home with Gertrude Stein. The famous writer, who also made a name for herself as an art collector, sold the paintings to a married couple of collectors in Los Angeles in 1968. The names Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter are documented on Gertrude Stein’s account for the first time.

It was not until four decades later that the four paintings were added to the Reinhard Ernst Collection. In January, the head of a New York gallery, through which Reinhard Ernst had already acquired several American works of art, came to see his collection and discovered that the collector already owned an abstract work of Alexej von Jawlensky. He pointed out to Ernst that the quartet of seasons paintings was for sale. In addition to their superior artistic quality, he emphasised the good condition and clear provenance of the works. Ernst had the documentation for the pictures sent to him. He was also able to inspect the correspondence of the last owners with the former director of the Wiesbaden Museum, Clemens Weiler. The latter suspected that these works were painted in Ascona. During this time, it is said that Jawlensky created variations with titles of the seasons. There was also confirmation of the authenticity of the four paintings from the Jawlensky archive in Muralto. Reinhard Ernst was fascinated by the history of these works and asked the gallery owner to bring them to Art Cologne, a German art fair, so he could view them himself.

April 2018 is when it all happened. Reinhard Ernst viewed the original works personally for the first time – and was enchanted by them. After agreeing on a price for them, the four paintings became the latest acquisition for the Reinhard Ernst Collection.

It was a question of honour for Ernst to provide the works on loan for the Soulmates exhibition – first at the Lenbachhaus in Munich, then at the Wiesbaden Museum. Especially as he wishes to make the art he has collected accessible to the public as often as possible. He is also particularly close to the Wiesbaden Museum, not only spatially in terms of the direct proximity of the Reinhard Ernst Museum currently under construction, but also through their ongoing cultural dialogue.

The exhibition and therefore Jawlensky’s quartet continue on via Munich and Wiesbaden to Ascona, where it can be seen at the Museo Comunale d’Arte Moderna (where the Fondazione Marianne Werefkin was based) from the autumn of 2020.

[We wish to thank Roman Zieglgänsberger, who put together the Soulmates exhibition as the curator of the Wiesbaden Museum, for additional information about the works of art.]