Art Museum, one of the many intricate paintings that caught my attention was the melancholy gaze of the Greek symbol, Niobe. Niobe by Alexey von Jawlensky was in the 1 9th and 20th century exhibition where it stood out from the others with its color pallet, materials used, and its historical meaning behind the painting. Alexey von Jawlensky artistically portrayed the emotions of Niobe, previously described by Greek mythology, by emphasizing on the raw emotion of Niobe’s story using his nique style, which connected me with his work.
Niobe is classified as an “Encaustic on board” painting, meaning that it was created utilizing hot wax. Special brushes and metal tools were used to shape the paint before the wax cools, creating the artists’ visions. Alexey von Jawlensky “attempted to further reduce conventional portraiture to abstract line, form and, especially, color” in his art collection, called Mystic Heads (The Collection 1). Niobe, a 15 5/8 x 12 1/8″ piece, fits these new standards Jawlensky was trying to convey onto his new pieces, starting with the abstract lines.
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These abstract lines break up her face, with each section a different soft pastel color formed by the hot wax. The shape of her head is also somewhat abstract, because it is not drawn anatomically correct. Niobe lacks ears in the painting and is also contorting her head at an unattainable angle due to her lack of neck or misshapen neck. The soft pastel colors also set a sorrowful tone to the painting, making her seem hopeless and helpless.
Since the painting was done encaustic on board, by hot wax, the wax was not always even when laid on the canvas, giving the painting different levels and textures hroughout. Niobe’s face takes up majority of the piece, making her the focal point, and also leaving little space for the eyes to wander. Giving her the spotlight gives the spectators the opportunity to analyzer her without any distractions. The work of art was created in Switzerland, because Alexey von Jawlensky was previously expelled from Germany, his home county, in 1914.
Jawlensky completed the painting in 1917, in the midst of World War l. The turmoil of the war around him may have played a role in the creation of this painting. Niobe, was a Greek symbol who would boast about her fourteen children to veryone she would encounter. When Leto, another Greek female symbol, was exposed to Niobe’s boasting, she sent her two sons, Apollo and Artemis, to kill Niobe’s seven daughters and seven sons. Amphion, Niobe’s husband commits suicide after hearing the news Of the deaths Of his children leaving Niobe all alone.
After this she is changed into stone, and flew, carried by a gust of wind; to her home in Lydia where she was stuck onto the peak of a mountain and is still there weeping. Jawlensky choosing to portray Niobe, a weeping widow, during this time where many people were being killed and any women themselves were becoming weeping widows was a strategic gambit to gain sympathy and attraction to his painting. Her gaze is initially what caught my eye from across the museum.
With her desolate, mourning eyes penetrating those who look at her, making those who lack the knowledge of Greek mythology wonder why she is unhappy. The way her head is angled to the side, as if she is about to wither away from aching pain of losing her family. This is a pain that can relate to after I lost my grandpa. It was almost as if the whole world had come to a stand still, ime stood still and I was left to try to grasp on to every memory that I had every experienced with him, trying to never forget the times we had together. as in disbelief and utter shock because like all unexpected deaths, it was unexpected. When I saw Jawlensk)/s artwork in the museum I was immediately flooded with the same feelings and emotions I felt when I was trying to recollect those memories and come to terms with the fact he was really gone. so standing there in the museum, felt connected to Niobe, and Jawlensky as he portrayed to the numerous families who were losing loved nes every day during the war. Jawlensky successfully conveyed the grieving and sorrow by making those emotions relatable enough for others to experience.
Before visiting the museum I was oblivious to the extent on which one could connect with art, thinking that art was just “art”. After having to complete this assignment and visiting the museum, I realized how ignorant I was to think that because I had never been exposed to art before that there was no emotional connection. Alexey von Jawlenskys Niobe permitted me to break out of the close minded ideals of art I once had, and allowed me to connect ith the piece feeling emotions I did not think were possible from looking at a piece of art.
I connected with Niobe’s story because I was able to relate to it with my own story; strongly due to the fact Jawlensky was able to portray her using his unique style to entice those who laid eyes upon her.