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Gelbes Haus mit Apfelbaum (recto); Landschaft (verso)

Gelbes Haus mit Apfelbaum (recto); Landschaft (verso)
with the Nachlass stamp (on the reverse)
oil on board
16 3⁄8 x 19 7⁄8 in. (41.6 x 50.7 cm.)
Painted in 1910
The artist's estate.
Galerie Resch, Gauting.
Private collection, Germany, by whom acquired from the above, and thence by decent; sale, Christie’s, London, 4 February 2008, lot 29.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Lahnstein, Münter, Ettal, 1971, p. 36 & n.p. (recto illustrated pl. 15).
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Neuere Kunst aus württembergischem Privatbesitz, April - June 1973, no. 163, p. 102.
Munich, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Gabriele Münter 1877-1962, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Hinterglasbilder und Volkskunst aus ihrem Besitz, April - July 1977, no. 39, p. 78 (recto illustrated p. 79).
Cambridge, Massachusetts, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Gabriele Münter: Between Munich and Murnau, September - November 1980, no. 24, pp. 30-31 (recto illustrated p. 30); this exhibition later travelled to Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Art Museum, November 1980 - January 1981.
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Naive and Outsider Painting from Germany and Paintings by Gabriele Münter, March - May 1983, no. 7, p. 110 (recto illustrated).
Hamburg, Kunstverein, Gabriele Münter, April - May 1988, no. 30, p. 122 (recto illustrated pl. XX); this exhibition later travelled to Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, June - August 1988 and Aichtal-Aich, Sammlung Eisenmann, September 1988.
Munich, Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Gabriele Münter, Retrospektive, July - November 1992, no. 80, p. 267 (recto illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, November 1992 - February 1993.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Executed in intense, luminous swathes of colour, Gelbes Haus mit Apfelbaum illustrates the important developments that occurred in Gabriele Münter’s art during the years she spent in Murnau during the first decade of the twentieth century. Perched on the edge of the crystal clear waters of the Staffelsee lake, above the moorland plateau of Murnauer Moos near Garmisch, the small hamlet of Murnau had become a popular destination with visitors from nearby Munich at the start of the century, its broad views of the imposing peaks of the Alps, tranquil atmosphere and bracing, fresh air appealing to those in need of a break from city life. Münter had first discovered the town during a cycling trip through the countryside with her partner Wassily Kandinsky in the summer of 1908, and both painters were immediately struck by the clarity of the light and dramatic vistas of the location. The pair returned a few months later, spending an extended sojourn in the town alongside their close friends and fellow artists, Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin. This trip would have an enormous impact on the development of all four artists, who spent their time working together in a communal manner, painting the same scenes from different viewpoints, and pursuing similar stylistic experiments in their work.

Inspired by her surroundings, and influenced by both her colleagues and the local folk art traditions, Münter painted with a new fervency, exploring a radical new approach to colour and form in her work. The following year, through Kandinsky’s urging, Münter established a more permanent base in Murnau through purchase of a small, newly built villa on the western edge of the village in June 1909, which swiftly became known as the Russenhaus (‘The House of the Russians’) amongst locals. Spending weeks at a time ensconced in their Alpine retreat, Kandinsky and Münter enjoyed a simple, quiet way of life in Murnau, passing their days in the flourishing gardens surrounding the house, embarking on long walks across the moors and amongst the foothills of the mountains, and painting en plein air. These experiences liberated Münter’s imagination and proved revelatory to her artistic development – as she explained in her diary, it was here that she enthusiastically embraced a new, uncompromisingly modern style, rooted in vibrant, glowing colours: ‘After a short period of agony I took a great leap forward, from copying nature – in a more or less Impressionist style – to abstraction, feeling the content, the essence of things’ (quoted in H. Friedel and A. Hoberg, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, Munich, 2000, n.p., cat. 62). 

During her years in Murnau, Münter’s most important artistic ambitions were focussed on her landscapes, which were the major site of her painterly experimentation and innovation. Gelbes Haus mit Apfelbaum is a celebration of man’s relationship with nature and represents a complex fusion of influences that were channelled into her work during this period. Freed from a purely descriptive role within the structure of the painting, the vibrant, glowing colours take on a new level of expressiveness within the scene, and demonstrate the ways in which Münter was now moving beyond the formative influences of Van Gogh, Gauguin and French Fauvism in her work, to reach her own unique style.

Adopting a low viewpoint so that the bright yellow house appears high on the horizon, she creates an invitingly sun drenched scene, the curving pathway leading the eye upwards, underneath the boughs of the apple tree. The house is reduced to a bare minimum of detail, executed in flat plains of resplendent colour which flow across the canvas in fluid ribbons of paint, while the surrounding landscape is indicated through a series of elongated dots and dashes, a technique that Kandinsky was also exploring around the same time. Through this flatness, Münter sought to capture in her paintings not the mere representation of the scene as it appears to the viewer’s eyes, but rather the spirituality of nature and the artist’s own subjective emotions when confronted by it.

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