Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938)
Éclipse de Soleil (Solar Eclipse)
signed with the artist’s initials 'MW' (lower right); signed, titled and inscribed 'Eclipse de soleil Werefkin Ascona' (on the reverse)
gouache and Indian ink on paper
17.5 x 13cm.
Executed circa 1930
Kunsthaus Schaller, Stuttgart.
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Lot Essay

‘I see an end, a limit to all things and my heart thirsts for the infinite and for eternity’ – Marianne von Werefkin

Executed circa 1930, Éclipse de Soleil (Solar Eclipse) is a vivid work on paper by Marianne von Werefkin. Rendered with fluid streaks of gouache and Indian ink, its searing, luminous palette captures the universal moment of disquieting calm as the sun moves behind the shadow of the moon. The artist was fascinated by natural phenomena, and their ability to shed light on the transience of human existence. Drawing on the languages of Symbolism, Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter and the work of her mentor and long-term companion Alexej von Jawlensky, she painted vibrant, often fantastical visions of the world, defined by bold, simplified form and intense use of colour. In the present work, she offers an image of transcendence: ‘I see an end, a limit to all things’, she wrote, ‘and my heart thirsts for the infinite and for eternity’ (M. von Werefkin, quoted in M. R. Witzling (ed.), Voicing Our Visions: Writings by Women Artists, New York 1991).
One of very few women associated with the Expressionist movement, Werefkin was among the most remarkable female artists of her time. Working at the heart of Munich’s avant-garde scene at the turn of the twentieth century, she played a vital role in challenging the status of women in the male-dominated world of modern art. Born near Moscow in 1860, she had studied with the great Russian Realist painter Ilya Repin, during which time she also met Jawlensky. The couple moved to Munich in 1896, where Werefkin hosted a salon on Giselastrasse, attracting some of the most progressive artists, writers, dancers, thinkers and other Russian émigrés of the period. This gathering of like-minded individuals, which included the couple’s close friends Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, led to the foundation of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Association of Artists in Munich, or NKVM) in 1909, ultimately paving the way for Der Blaue Reiter. Werefkin would begin exhibiting alongside artists from this group in 1913, and her ideas about the role of spirituality in art would have an important impact on many of her contemporaries.
Unlike Kandinsky, however, Werefkin never abandoned her figurative roots, placing human experience firmly at the heart of her practice. In this, her work invites comparison with that of artists such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, all of whom she greatly admired. At the outbreak of the First World War, Werefkin and Jawlensky moved to Switzerland; following their separation in 1918, Werefkin settled in Ascona on Lago Maggiore, where she remained for the rest of her life. Her works continued to offer visionary meditations on the machinations of nature and the universe: in 1924 she founded an artist’s group named after the constellation ‘Ursa Major’ (‘The Great Bear’), reflecting an interest in celestial phenomena that is evident in the present work.

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