Peter Walter and Dr. Isabelle Jansen will include this work in their forthcoming Gabriele Münter catalogue raisonné.
When describing Gabriele Münter, Johannes Eichner, her companion from the late 1920s onwards, gave account of the Expressionist painter as an artistic tabula rasa, "not burdened by the prejudices of tradition or by the passing taste of times" (in Kandinsky und Gabriele Münter: Von Ursprüngen moderner Kunst, Munich, 1957). Such a statement served not only to emphasize Münter as committed to a self-developed stylistic vocabulary, but also as an artist keen to distill inner truth and personal reality from the mundane and the ordinary. A founding member of The New Artists' Association in Munich in 1909, alongside fellow artists Marianne von Werefkin, Alexej von Jawlensky and Wassily Kandinsky, Münter found individuality by adopting an alternative approach to subject matter, preferring to concentrate on still-life and portraiture in a scale and style that depicted the every day, rather than the grand metaphysical interpretations expressed by the other members of the group.
By 1910 Münter's relationship with the married Kandinsky had become both passionate and restricting, social conventions limiting her acceptance into society circles entwined with Kandinsky's jealousy. Münter's immediate environment had diminished and her experiences became circumscribed in response. Her work began to draw on themes of isolation and separation as she painted an assault on the commonality of objects, lending significance to the mundane through the use of juxtaposition and drastic simplification, a method which Münter herself likened to the work of a songbird; "that sings without thought to the tune" (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit, 1997-1999, p. 84).
The depiction of the still life became an integral element of Münter's oeuvre despite its rarity amongst other leading Expressionists. Traditionally viewed as a feminine genre, Münter challenged the danger of being dismissed, inspired perhaps by the great role still life played in contemporary French avant-garde painting. By casting scale into doubt and utilizing intense color harmonies, Münter pushed the ordinary toward the extraordinary. Absorbing influences from Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, she created similar effects by her own style. Her canvases became a testimony to artistic activity, where personality and personal reality become primary. In Stilleben mit Heinzelmännchen, Münter flattens forms and encapsulates color with heavy black lines rendering the selected objects into unusual visual focus, each item gaining a form of independent existence, as they interact against their shadowy surroundings. The toy elf in particular comes to life, demonstrating Münter's unique ability to produce visionary poetry gleaned from the most personal of possessions.