Gabriele Münter (Berlin, 19 February 1877 – 19 May 1962) was a German expressionist painter who was at the forefront of the Munich avant-garde in the early 20th century. She studied with the painter Wassily Kandinsky and was a founding member of the expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter.
Münter was born to upper middle class parents in Berlin. Regardless of the times, her family supported her desires to become an artist. She began to draw as a child. As she was growing up, she had a private tutor, and took classes at the Woman’s Artist School, since she was not allowed to enroll in the German Academies because she was a woman. She didn’t feel challenged by her current school, so she decided to take her studies elsewhere. Both of her parents had died by the time she was 21 years old, and she was living at home with no occupation. In 1898, she decided to take a trip to America with her sister to visit extended family. They stayed in America for over two years, mainly in the states of Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri; six sketchbooks survive from Münter's period in America, depicting images of people, plants and landscapes. Both girls had inherited a large amount of money, allowing them to live freely and independently. Her childhood and early adulthood greatly impacted her future artistic career. She had a free and unrestricted life that was unconstrained by convention. Living in America and Europe had given Münter social exposure that many women did not have at the time. Münter studied woodcut techniques, sculpture, painting, and printmaking. Soon after she began taking classes, Münter became professionally involved with the Phalanx School’s director, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. This eventually turned into a personal relationship that lasted for over a decade. Kandinsky was the first teacher that had actually taken Münter’s painting abilities seriously. In the summer of 1902, Kandinsky invited Münter to join him at his summer painting classes just south of Munich in the Alps, and she accepted.
Münter was heavily focused on German Expressionism, however she worked in various mediums, including a significant output in wood- and linocuts. She kept a journal and documented her journeys with a state-of-the-art camera. She was familiar with many of the more famous artists of the time; in one of her journals, she stated that she wanted to learn from the avant-garde artists in France.
In 1897, at the age of twenty, Münter received artistic training in the Düsseldorf studio of artist Ernst Bosch and later at the Damenschule (Women's School) of Willy Platz. In 1901, she attended the beginners' classes of Maximilian Dasio at the Damenakademie (Women's Academy) of the Münchener Künstlerinnenverein (Munich Women Artists's Association). Münter then studied at the Phalanx School in Munich, an avant-garde institution founded by Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. At the Phalanx School, Münter attended sculpture courses taught by Wilhelm Hüsgen. Münter studied outside the official art academies in Munich and Düsseldorf, as these were closed to women. At the Phalanx School, Münter was introduced to Post-Impressionism and the marking techniques of a palette knife and a brush. Her vivid colors and bold outlines were somewhat derived from Gauguin and the Fauves whom she admired. Along with this, Münter was inspired by Bavarian folk art, particularly the technique of reverse-glass painting (Hinterglasmalerei in German). Additionally, Münter and Kandinsky's relationship affected Kandinsky's work. Aside from his earlier work, Kandinsky began to adopt Münter's use of saturated colors and abstract expressionist style. Münter and Kandinsky traveled through Europe including the Netherlands, Italy, and France, as well as North Africa. It was during this time that they met Rousseau and Matisse. Münter and Kandinisky fell in love with the small market town of Murnau in southern Bavaria. Later on, Münter bought a house in Murnau and spent much of her life there. Münter and Kandinsky helped establish the Munich-based avant-garde group called the New Artists’ Association (Neue Künstlervereinigung). She contributed to a number of the most significant avant-garde exhibitions in Germany up till World War I.
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