Marianne Werefkin: a pioneering modernist

Self-portrait on the cover of S950.b.201.5000

I was interested to hear about the Making Modernism exhibition which opened at the Royal Academy in November and continues until 12 February. It is described as “the first major UK exhibition devoted to pioneering women working in Germany in the early 1900s” and highlights four women in particular. Three of these, Kӓthe Kollwitz, Paula Modersohn-Becker and Gabriele Münter, were familiar names to me and indeed have been mentioned previously in our blog post on German Expressionism in Leicester. But I had not heard of Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938) and she seemed worthy of further exploration.

She was born into Russian nobility, and as a young woman her artistic talents were recognised and encouraged, with lessons from the renowned artist Ilya Repin. In the 1890s she moved to Munich with her partner Alexej von Jawlensky who was also an artist. At this time she was probably the more skilled painter of the pair but chose to allow her art to take a back seat for a time in order to support his development. She embraced a more expressionist style of painting in the early 1900s and was one of the founders of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München which was a forerunner of the important Der Blaue Reiter movement. Continue reading