The Hidden Jewel of Ascona – A Russian painter Marianne von Werefkin

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4.11.2016 Posted in Travel, Writing No Comments

At the end of September I found myself in Ascona – a beuatiful town in the Italian part of Switzerland. The main reason of my trip to Ascona was to look at the paintings of a Russian painter Mariannne von Werefkin (1860 – 1938) who lived in Ascona for the last 20 years of her life. I love her paintings – beautiful, solitary and kind images of daily life.

Bron in Tula as the daughter of the commander of the Ekaterinaburg Regiment, she became a student of Ilya Repin, the most important painter of Russian Realism. In 1892 she met Alexej von Jawlensky, who desired to be her protégé, and in 1896 she, Jawlensky, and their servant moved to Munich, where she initiated a Salon which soon became a center of lively artistic exchange. She also founded the “Lukasbruderschaft” of which also Kandinsky was a member.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Werefkin and Jawlensky immigrated to Switzerland. With the beginning of Russian Revolution in 1917, Marianne lost her money in Russia and could no longer be a protégé of her husband. By 1918, they had separated. Jawlensky who had a son with their servant married the servant and went back to Germany. Werefkin moved alone to Ascona, on Lago Maggiore where she painted many colorful, landscapes in an expressionist style. In 1924 she founded the artist group “Großer Bär” (i.e., Big Bear, Ursa Major). Unable to make her living she lived in povetry supported by a few friends.

Marianne von Werefkin died in Ascona on 6 February 1938. She was buried on the Ascona cemetery. Her funeral, attended by the whole town, was celebrated according to the Orthodox and Catholic rites. Her tomb, possibly the most simple on the cemetery, has an Orthodox cross with a Russian saying ‘Crystos Voskrese’  – ‘The Christ has risen’.

Marianne von Werefkin helped to create a Museum of Fine Arts in Ascona. She donated all her paintings the museum while many of her friends-painters who came to visit her also donated their paintings to the museum creating a center of fine arts in Ascona.

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