Gabriele Munter (1877-1962)
Gabriele Munter (1877-1962)

Dorfstrasse im Murnau

Gabriele Munter (1877-1962)
Dorfstrasse im Murnau
signed and dated 'Münter 08' (lower left)
oil on board
13 x 16 in. (33 x 40.6 cm.)
Painted in 1908
Estate of the artist.
Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles (by 1968).
Richard Feigen Gallery, New York.
Anon. sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 19 November 1969, lot 51.
Julius Reiner, New York (acquired at the above sale).
By descent from the above to the present owners.
Los Angeles, Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, German Expressionist Art, 1968.

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Lot Essay

Münter and Wassily Kandinsky first began touring the Bavarian countryside near Munich in June 1908 and discovered the picturesque village of Murnau. The luminously painted exteriors of the traditional cottages were exhilarating to the artists and Münter's work from this period demonstrates an increasing level of confidence and delight. Joined by fellow artists Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky, the two couples reproduced village scenes in bold strokes and pure color.

Having received a camera for her 22nd birthday in 1899, Münter had developed a keen interest in photography and was at this time experimenting with the same sort of close-ups that form the basis of perspective in this present work. Her approach, opposed to that of Kandinsky who favored a sense of horizon in his work, was to include landscape and mountains to form a foreshortened backdrop. The distinction is evident if one compares Kandinsky's Murnau-Obermarkt, his street scene also painted in the summer of 1908 (fig.1), to the present work. Regarding her developing style, Münter wrote in her diary in 1911: "I have made there [in Murnau], after a short period of agony, an immense leap forwards--from painting nature more or less impressionistically--towards feeling its inner content, towards abstracting and expressing the essence...I liked to show my works especially to Jawlensky, who advised me, and talked about 'synthesis'" (quoted in R. Heller, Gabriele Münter: The Years of Expressionism 1903-1920, Munich, 1997, p. 16). "Synthesis" seemed to be the term favored by Jawlensky to describe a radical simplification of form and color, avoiding anecdotal content.

While the deliberately naïve simplicity of Dorfstrasse im Murnau reflects Münter's interest in traditional Bavarian glass painting, the heightened coloration and compressed spatial perspective indicate her familiarity with the work of the Fauves. Through this technique she sought to capture not the mere representation of the scene as it appears in the viewer's eye, but the spirituality of nature and the artist's own subjective emotions when confronted by it. This painting, executed in sumptuous strokes of rich color, is enriched further by Münter's deep affection for a life lead close to the land and a unity between humanity and nature.

(fig. 1) Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau-Obermarkt, 1908. Private collection.

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