Exhibition Archive

Gabriele Münter: The Search for Expressionism 1906-1917

23 June to 11 September 2005

painting by Gabriele Munter

“…this small jewel-like exhibition is in its quiet unobtrusive way one of the best shows in London.”
-The Independent on Sunday, 7 August 2005

Gabriele Münter (1877-1962) played a vital role in the development of German Expressionism in the early years of the 20th century. She was at the forefront of a group of highly influential avant-garde artists, including her lover Wassily Kandinsky, who redirected the course of German modernism and shaped Expressionist aesthetics. Münter was a founder member both of the progressive, Neue Kunstlervereinigung Munchen, (Munich New Artists’ Association) and the celebrated avant-garde group, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).

Gabriele Münter: The Search For Expression 1906-1917
was the first ever museum exhibition of Münter’s work in Britain and featured 20 important paintings from the most intensively creative period of her career. The exhibition showed a small number of works from British private collections but the majority of paintings were selected from the outstanding collections of the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, to which Münter bequeathed her estate in 1957 and which houses the finest collection of Blaue Reiter paintings in the world. Several of these loans to the Courtauld are masterpieces of Münter’s oeuvre and some had never been shown outside Germany before.

This exhibition charts Münter’s extraordinary artistic development from her early Impressionist-inspired paintings of Sèvres on the outskirts of Paris, to the bold and brightly coloured innovative Expressionist works she produced in the small town of Murnau, deep in the Bavarian Alps. It was here, accompanied by Kandinsky and fellow painters Alexei Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin, that the foundations of the Blaue Reiter movement were laid. The paintings in the exhibition showed how Münter thoroughly revitalised the genres of portraiture, landscape and still life, achieving a distinct voice within both her immediate circle and the wider European avant-garde.

The exhibition included work from the First World War period when the Blaue Reiter was forced to disband and Münter, now separated from Kandinsky, produced a series of haunting and melancholic portraits of women in interiors, the most important examples of which were on display.

The range and diversity of the paintings shown in this exhibition demonstrated that Münter’s work never solidified into a stylistic formula but was always searching. As she put it, "When I begin to paint, it’s like leaping suddenly into deep waters, and I never know beforehand whether I will be able to swim."

Gabriele Münter: The Search For Expression 1906-1917 was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with essays by Dr Shulamith Behr from the Courtauld Institute of Art and Dr Annegret Hoberg from the Lenbachhaus.

Gabriele Münter, Jawlensky and Werefkin 1909 Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich© DACS 2005