One of the best portrait artists of the Expressionism school, and ranked among the great modern artists from Russia, Alexei von Jawlensky, was classically trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, under Ilya Repin (1844-1930). Jawlensky however was not destined to develop into a traditional artist, and instead became one of Europe's leading Expressionist painters. In 1896 he moved to Germany and became a founding member of the New Munich Artist's Association.
Later he became one of the five core artists in Der Blaue Reiter - one of the most influential groups involved in German Expressionism. Known as the "Russian Matisse", Jawlensky vivid colourism and passionate brushstrokes were key features of his art. Early influences came from Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky and Van Gogh. Jawlensky is best known for his portrait art, notably his sequences of Heads, including Mystical Heads (1917-19); Saviour's Faces (1918-20) and later a group of abstract/ constructivist Heads. His best known expressionist paintings include Landscape Murnau (1909, Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf), Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sakharov (1909, Lenbachhaus, Munich), Head (1910, Museum of Modern Art, New York); Head of a Woman (1911, Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland), Abstract Head (1928, private collection), and Schokko (1910, private collection). Jawlensky's expressionism is instantly recognizable and, along with that of Modigliani, ranks among the most sought after work from the early 20th century.