Jawlensky was born in Russia, and started out with a military career. He began his art studies comparatively late, in his mid-twenties, and in 1896 left the army and went to Munich where he enrolled at art school. Another Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky, was a fellow student, and the two became great friends. In 1905 Jawlensky spent some time in France, where he was influenced by the work of Gauguin, Van Gogh and the Fauves. He showed several paintings at the famous Salon d'Automne exhibition of 1905, in which the Fauves were given their name.