Issue 19 : Spring 2005
23 June — 11 September
This summer the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery will hold the first ever museum exhibition in Britain of the work of the German Expressionist artist Gabriele Münter (1877-1962). During the early years of the twentieth century Münter was at the forefront of a group of highly influential artists, including her partner Wassily Kandinsky, who redirected the course of German modernism and founded the celebrated avant-garde group the Blaue Reiter in 1911. A sense of creative excitement and artistic renewal pervades the bold and brightly coloured paintings Münter produced during this period of experimentation. Through her radical simplifications of form and colour, allied with her profound interest in Bavarian folk art, Münter achieved a distinct voice within the cross-currents of European modernism.
The exhibition features over twenty important paintings from the most creative period of Münters career. They chart her development from Impressionist-inspired paintings of Sèvres on the outskirts of Paris, to the innovative and energetic Expressionist works she began to produce in 1908 during her first stay with Kandinsky in the small town of Murnau near Munich. Here, in the Bavarian Alps, Münter began a period of revitalising the genres of still life, portraiture and landscape. A revelation of the exhibition is the extraordinary diversity of her work, which never settles for an artistic formula but is always searching. As she put it, "When I begin to paint, its like leaping suddenly into deep waters, and I never know beforehand whether I will be able to swim."
The First World War ended this period of artistic optimism and excitement; the Blaue Reiter group dispersed and Kandinsky and Münter separated. The exhibition concludes with two of Münters important portraits of women in interiors produced during a period of isolation and reflection living in Stockholm.
A small number of the works in the exhibition will come from British private collections but the majority of paintings have been 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 Münters oeuvre and some have never been shown outside Germany before.