Copy Famous Portraits in Reverse – Alexj von Jawlensky

Jawlewnsy Young Girl with Peonies

What is it?

Painting “Young Girl with Peonies” by Alexj von Jawlensky

Image accessed 1/03/2018

In this painting I have reversed the colours by using their opposites on the colour wheel below.



How was this painting done?

German expressionist painters typically distorted colour, scale and space to convey their subjective feelings about what they saw. However, war scarred many of these artists for good. As a result, from 1915 onwards, German expressionism became a bitter protest movement as well as a style of modern art.

Exaggeration or distortion of lines, forms, and colours were just some of the techniques used by expressionists to convey their emotions, anxieties or neuroses.

Jawlensky combined elements of Russian icon painting and peasant art with the strong colours and outlines of the Fauves to create a distinctive, mystical expressionism.  He did, however, retain his typical Russian melancholy.

Why should we care?

Jawlensky can teach us a lot about the value of collaborating and working with our art buddies.

Between 1908 and 1910, Jawlensky spent summers in the Bavarian Alps with painters, Marianne von Werefkin, Gabrielle Munter and Wassily Kandinsky.  Through painting landscapes of their mountainous surroundings, they experimented with one another’s techniques and discussed many topics including art history.  After this time, Jawlewnsky turned increasingly to the expressive use of colour and form alone in his portraits. Jawlensky’s further collaborations with other artists who broke away from The New Artists’ Society in Munich went on to form the famous Der Blaue Reiter Group.

Where can I see other paintings like it?

“Portrait of Madame Matisse” (Green Stripe)”, 1905.  This work shows the bright colours   typical of The Fauves which influenced Jawlensky greatly.  Both Matisse and Jawlensky used colour to convey emotion.  Colour is the most significant element and focus of  “Young Girl with Peonies” (above) and “Portrait of Madame Matisse (Green Stripe).”

“Portrait of Marianne von Werefkin”, 1909, Gabrielle Munter.  Here, Munter has simplified the form and created clear colour contrasts similar to the technique applied in “Jawlensky’s “Girl with Peonies” (above).

Meditate, relax and enjoy

There can be no mistakes in making this painting.  Everything ends up as it should be.  Take the luxury of “time out”, have fun and recreate this fabulous painting in acrylics yourself, here’s how:

You will need

  • a small canvas, 30cm x 40cm is a good size
  • tubes of primary acrylic colours, blue, red and yellow plus white
  • soft nylon paint brushes, (small, medium and a little larger)
  • water in an old container
  • a rag or disposable cloth
  • an hour or two but don’t be concerned if  completing the painting over two days.
  • Tips on the Process
  • prime the canvas first, otherwise, just a wash and dry with a towel
  • print the photo you want to work from, measure and cut into quarters to make your drawing in a grid
  • paint in the background first
  • draw your painting with a small brush using a watery blend of blue.
  • everything is easily painted over with acrylics
  • The painting will not look great at the initial stages, stay with it for a pleasant surprise
  • try not to use paint directly from the tube; experiment with how to mix colours
  • layering colours on top of others using the scumbling technique creates magic
  • acrylics dry darker than the mixed colour

The Drawing Process

If you would rather not use a grid for the drawing,  you may wish to copy from the first image below using a fine brush.

Go ahead!  Save yourself money by painting your own amazing pieces for your home.  You and your friends will be amazed at what you have achieved!