MARIANNE VON WEREFKIN
Marianne von Werefkin (1860 – 1938) was a native of Russia, where, in 1886, she became a student of the famous realist and protagonist of the group known as the Wanderers, Ilya Repin. At an early age, she attracted a great deal of attention with her portraits, painted in an intensely atmospheric Naturalist style. She started working with Alexej Jawlensky in 1891, and in 1896, the two moved to Munich, where Werefkin gave up painting for almost ten years in order to devote herself to nurturing Jawlensky’s talents, although she also put much energy into studies on painterly technique and discussions of art theory. It was only toward the end of the almost yearlong grand tour of France she undertook with Jawlensky, in 1907, that Werefkin returned to painting. Her work now presented an idiosyncratic synthesis of the influence of Symbolism with inspirations she drew from Ferdinand Hodler, the Nabis, and Edvard Munch. The summer she spent working with Jawlensky and their friends in Murnau in 1908 and the productive collaboration in the Neue Künstlervereinigung München gave rise to an oeuvre whose great theme is the pre-cariousness of human existence at the mercy of invisible forces in nature as well as the nature within us. Almost all her pictures show figures, sometimes in additive arrangement; Werefkin was the only artist in the orbit of the Blue Rider whose work made direct reference to the world of human labor and factory work. In her compositions, landscapes likewise become frameworks full of tension, stages on which human fate plays out.
After Worl War I began, Werefkin and Jawlensky moved to Switzerland; their relationship finally ended in 1921, when they were in Ascona. Living in very difficult material circumstances, but sheltered by the Monte Verità artists’ colony, Werefkin worked there until her death in 1938.
“One life is far too little for all the things I feel within myself, and I invent other lives within and outside myself for them. A whirling crowd of invented beings surrounds me and prevents me from seeing reality. Color bites at my heart.”
Marianne von Werefkin