Alexei Jawlensky, Helene with the Colored Turban, 1910Oil on boardSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on display at the Neue Galerie, New York.

Among the initial observations prompted by “Alexei Jawlensky” at the Neue Gallery—the first U.S. retrospective devoted to the Russian-born Expressionist—is that Jawlensky was a better Van Gogh than Van Gogh himself. Toward the beginning of the exhibition, viewers encounter Portrait of Marie Castell (1906), a canvas that could be mistaken for the real thing. The thickly applied brushstrokes, acidic colors, stiffly rendered contour, flattened compositio ...