The forgotten woman of German expressionism

She was a prolific painter with an evocative style. She was also Kandinsky’s lover, and has been relegated in history to simply being his girlfriend. William Cook on the genius of Gabriele Munter

Thursday 02 December 2021 21:30
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<p>Münter painting outdoors, at Kochel</p>

Münter painting outdoors, at Kochel

In a pretty little town called Murnau, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, there is a pretty little house that changed the course of modern art. It was here, in 1911, that a group of German and Russian artists assembled the Blaue Reiter Almanac. This book of essays and illustrations became a manifesto for a new generation of artists, who painted not only what they saw but also what they felt. These Blaue Reiter artists revolutionised European art, and the men among them became famous, most notably Wassily Kandinsky. But the Blaue Reiter wasn’t just a group of male artists. It included several female artists too, most notably Gabriele Münter. Münter was a brilliant artist, just as good as Kandinsky. So why is she hardly known about outside her native Germany, while Kandinsky is renowned worldwide?

Münter was no bit-part player in the Blaue Reiter. She was a prolific painter, with an evocative, innovative style. However, she was also Kandinsky’s lover, and while Kandinsky became a household name, Münter has gone down in history as his girlfriend, rather than an artist in her own right. It’s an injustice many female artists have had to face, but for her it seems especially unfair. Münter was a major influence on Kandinsky, and on the other Blaue Reiter artists too. She helped to fund the Almanac. She owned the house where it all happened. Without her creative input, it’s quite possible the Blaue Reiter never would have got off the ground, and the history of modern art would have taken an entirely different course.

Kandinsky painting landscapes: Münter, 1903

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