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Gabriele Münter

August 16, 2011

It is time to expose the shocking truth about expressionist Wassily Kandinsky:

Under each of his paintings is the real source: a painting by his fellow Blue Rider founder, Gabriele Münter!

(clockwise from upper left) Wassily Kandinsky, Sketch I for Painting with White Border (Moscow), 1913, 39 1/2 x 30 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris; Infrared reflectogram of Sketch I; Infrared reflectogram of Sketch I without the overlay of Kandinsky’s composition; Gabriele Münter, Garden Concert, c. 1911-12, © , 11 1/4 x 14 7/8 in. Gabriele Münter- und Johannes Eichner-Stiftung, Munich, Kon. 34/20. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Gotcha! Just kidding.

Current exhibition, Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border, does include a Münter gouache work, Garden Concert, 1912,  that Phillips conservators found under Kandinsky’s Sketch I for Painting with White Border. But the possibility that he might have painted over other works by his former student and lover is actually addressed by Annegret Hoberg, curator at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, in an essay in the exhibition catalogue. She says with certainty that this finding is an isolated case, a conclusion echoed by Phillips Curator Elsa Smithgall.

Kandinsky thought highly of Münter, writing in one of Der Blaue Reiter almanacs that she had “an accurate, discreet, delicate, and yet well-defined style of drawing, which is composed of the elements of mischief, melancholy, and reverie . . . ” Additionally, Kandinsky wrote, she has a “simple harmonic system of her own, consisting of a certain range of none but serious colors, which, by reason of its deep tones, composes a serene chord with her drawings.”

Blue Rider colleague Franz Marc, who, like Kandinsky, is featured in the Phillips’s permanent collection, was a little dismissive of Münter’s work, according to Reinhold Heller, Milwaukee Art  Museum guest curator for the 1997-1998 Münter retrospective.

Marc, in a note to Kandinsky, said that Münter’s paintings “with their comical and awkward accents, their shifting perspectives and masquerading realities . . . threatened to transform the men’s pioneering Expressionist efforts into women’s work.”

 “Women’s work.”

That’s what women in the arts often had to go through. A pioneering female painter in Germany in the early 20th Century, Münter had to attend a women’s art school separated from her male peers, as did other female student artists.

In his forward to the 1980 Münter exhibition at Harvard University’s Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, Mass., Curator Charles W. Haxthausen, noted that in the U.S., Münter didn’t get her first solo exhibition until 1960 when she was 83.

And, I believe that her work was held in a secondary position for a long time by chauvinistic male art historians because she painted “girly” subjects:  domestic scenes with kids and dolls, colorful landscapes, some with horses.

Wait – didn’t Marc paint horses and deers?

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