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Gabriele Münter

German Painter and Printmaker

Gabriele Münter Photo
Movements and Styles: German Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter

Born: February 19, 1877 - Berlin, Germany

Died: May 19, 1962 - Murnau, Germany

"...even as a child I practiced with the pencil and, specifically, that I always draw faces...I made no effort to depict events and actions. Only permanence in appearance fascinated me in a person - the form in which the essence was expressed."

Summary of Gabriele Münter

Münter's name is inextricably linked with her erstwhile colleague and lover Wassily Kandinsky, yet few would contest the view that her contribution to the canons of twentieth century modernism deserves to be recognized on its own terms. Best known as a painter and printmaker, she is usually discussed under the umbrella of German Expressionism and as a member of the famous Blaue Reiter group.

Inspired by folk art and non-western art, and known for her spontaneous approach to canvases, she produced vibrant figurative and abstract works characterized by dramatic color and loose brushstrokes. In the mid-1930s her political credentials were called into question when she submitted safe figurative works - possibly out of self-preservation - to the National Socialist project (though ultimately her art was rejected by the Nazi Party). In the post-war years her oeuvre was re-evaluated and art history has positioned her as an important link between the pre-war and post-war German avant-gardes.

Key Ideas

Together, Münter and Kandinsky explored new aesthetic possibilities through their travels throughout Europe and North Africa. For her part, Münter started to produce Post-Impressionistic landscapes characterized by the thick and vibrant smears of paint that would become her trademark. Münter was however unique amongst her peers because of the speed at which she worked, often able to complete one or more large canvas in a single day.
Once returned to Germany, Münter and Kandinsky founded the New Artists' Association Munich (NKVM) in 1909. Galvanized by her interactions with her newly widened peer group, Münter moved more and more towards abstraction, producing landscapes and still lifes formed of blocks of primary unmodulated colors and flattened perspective.
In keeping with the spirit of the German Expressionist tradition of woodcutting, Münter was invested in the practices of printmaking. Her linocuts were characterized by a blending of naturalism and abstraction: her portraits, for instance, were admired for their fine detail through which she rendered her sitter who was placed against a background of abstract forms.
Münter produced a series of still lifes - dismissed by many (male) avant-gardists as a "woman's genre" - that were unique in the context of German Expressionism. Through them, she incorporated folk objects mostly acquired on her overseas travels. Her still lifes were unique in the way "random" objects were selected because of their color and tonal relationships.
Kandinsky's portrait of Gabriele Münter (1905)

Gabriele Münter’s relationship with art phenomenon Wassily Kandinsky both shaped and overshadowed her career. When it ended, Kandinsky shot to stardom, while Münter did not pick up a paint brush for nearly ten years. “In the eyes of many, I was only an unnecessary side-dish to Kandinsky”, she said.

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