She was said to have a lot of gut feeling. But her art also comes from brains. An exhibition in Bern shows Gabriele Munter’s multifaceted work in a new light.
Author: Samuel Herzog
If self-portraits are any indication of an artist’s character, then Gabriele Munter saw herself as an existence irritated by life. Her paintings often show her as a sensitive person – a woman staring into the distance with bright blue eyes lost in thought.
This also corresponds to the picture Wassily Kandinsky had of her. The artist had been secretly involved with Munter since 1902. He saw her as a naive being, dominated by fears and drives, in everyday life as in art.
A mistake. For Gabriele Munter often developed her pictorial motifs very consciously. In the 70 years of her artistic activity she also tried out a wide variety of styles. She was also active as a photographer. This is illustrated by the first Swiss retrospective on view at the Zentrum Paul Klee.
In the period around the turn of the century Munter took numerous photographs while traveling through America, Tunisia and France. These paintings have only recently emerged from obscurity. In Bern they are now shown side by side with sketches and paintings, which were made in parallel to them.
Do these photographs convey a more differentiated picture of the supposedly only naturally gifted artist?? Fabienne Eggelhofer, curator of the Bern exhibition, is convinced that Munter consciously uses photography to "find motifs that she later implements in other media".
With the help of Munter’s photographs, she wants to illustrate that "the artist also approaches her themes conceptually."
The light of Murnau
In the fall of 1908, Munter and Kandinsky, together with Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky, made an excursion to Murnau am Staffelsee. The two artist couples were inspired by the light and the colors of the landscape, which they sought to capture in countless paintings.
In 1909 Munter bought a house in Murnau. In the years that followed, she and Kandinsky commuted back and forth between the rural idyll and the big city of Munich.
All the pictures with which Munter inscribed herself in the history of modern art were created during this period. The famous portrait of Werefkin, for example, which shows the friend in a geometrically ordered structure of planes and colors. Or the "Village Street in Winter" with its facades in green, pink, blue or white, connected by black contours.
Munter was also involved in the founding of the almanac "Der Blaue Reiter" in 1912. She also created drawings, prints and enchanting textiles, some of which can also be seen in Bern.
Separation from Kandinsky
Then the First World War broke out. As a Russian, Kandinsky had to leave the country, Munter stayed behind. It was the end of their relationship. In the following years the artist undertook several trips, especially to Scandinavia. But then she made Murnau more and more the center of her life.
In the Bern exhibition, it is noticeable that only a few of the 180 exhibits date from the period after the First World War. Gabriele Munter lived for almost half a century before she died in 1962 at the age of 85.
"never stayed on something for a long time"
If she did not create anything worth exhibiting after her separation from Kandinsky, she did not find her own style in any of her works? Fabienne Eggelhofer says that although Munter had certainly developed further, she had probably "never stuck with anything for a long time".
Although the Bern exhibition tells the story of an artist who got off to a brilliant start in the years before the First World War and was more than just a naive talent, the underlying causes are still unclear. At the same time, it shows a person who was abruptly thrown off course by the war and who did not succeed in picking up the thread again, either artistically or socially.