Dot, dot, comma, dash... Although the painting is reduced to a minimum as regards form, Jawlensky's 'Abstract Head: Symphony in Pink' and other such works are simple only at first sight. The artist, a member of the Blauer Reiter group, associated works of this kind with his search for a universally valid archaic image of the human face. Jawlensky began his series of 'Abstract Heads' in 1918. They comprise 251 works which alternate between abstraction and figuration. The deeply pious Russian saw himself as continuing in the tradition of Russian and Byzantine art and intentionally referenced icon paintings in his work.
When Robert von Hirsch (1883–1977) began to collect art at the age of twenty-four, his interest was in Impressionism and modern art. In the 1920s he began to include works by the Old Masters, such as Dürer, Raphael, Rubens and Rembrandt. His house in Bockenheimer Landstrasse was a popular meeting point for art lovers in Frankfurt, until von Hirsch emigrated to Basel in 1933. He continued to feel a close link with the Städel from his exile in Switzerland.