As a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter and one of very few women working at the center of Munich’s avant-garde circle, Gabriele Münter played a significant role in charting the emergence of a new visual vocabulary in modern art. From a young age, Münter yearned to be an artist, and, in 1901, she enrolled in the experimental Phalanx School. Co-founded by Wassily Kandinsky, the school was one of the only places in Germany where women could study alongside men. In Kandinsky, Münter found a mentor that truly enabled her development as an artist, as he recognized her natural talent and encouraged her progress.
Shortly after finishing her studies, Münter became intimately involved with the already married Kandinsky. From 1903-1907, she travelled extensively with him through Europe and North Africa, where she familiarised herself with the aesthetic ideas of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and the Fauves – influences that would emerge in her painting after the couple returned to Germany in April 1908. Once back in Munich, Münter and Kandinsky began touring the Bavarian countryside in search of a place to spend time together, eventually settling in the picturesque location of Murnau in the rolling hills by the Staffelsee, which, with its view of the Wetterstein Alps, presented a compelling visual environment. Münter and Kandinsky joined their artist friends Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky there, and together painted the village and surrounding landscape, contributing to a new phase of undisturbed and intense creativity.
Painted in 1908-1909, Sonne im Moos dates from this highly fruitful period, when the group worked intensively together to forge a new type of painting characterized by its bold simplification, flattened spatial perspective and vivid use of colour. Münter's paintings underwent a massive transformation in Murnau. The swift transition in her art towards a distillation of form was almost immediate, ‘After a short period of agony,’ she later recalled, ‘I took a great leap forward – from copying nature – in a more or less Impressionist style – to feeling the content of things – abstracting – conveying an extract’ (quoted in A. Hoberg, Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter: Letters and Reminiscences, 1902-1914, Munich, 1994, p. 14).