Born in 1864 near Torschok, Alexej von Jawlensky became a tsarist officer before he was able to realise his dream of an artistic career. Beginning in 1889, while still serving in the military, he studied at the academy in St Petersburg, and in 1892 he met Marianne von Werefkin. In 1896 he left the military and moved to Munich, where he became a friend of Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter. In 1909 he was a co-founder of the Neue Künstlervereinigung, the New Artists’ Association in Munich and participated in exhibitions by the Blauer Reiter group, founded in 1911. After the outbreak of the First World War he moved to Switzerland, where in 1918 he began his series of abstract heads. In 1921 Jawlensky moved to Wiesbaden. His increasingly crippling arthritis made it difficult to work. Starting in 1934 he produced his Meditations, heads painted while he was in pain. The artist, by then ostracised in Germany, died in Wiesbaden in 1941.