The Gabrielle Münter-und Johannes Eichner-Stiftung will include this painting in their forthcoming Münter catalogue raisonné.
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 short-lived, 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. He recognized her natural talent and encouraged her progress, inviting her to join his plein-air landscape painting lessons in Kochel, Walchensee and Kallmunz. Münter soon became intimately involved with the married Kandinsky. From 1903-1907, she traveled extensively with him through Europe and North Africa, where she familiarized herself with the aesthetic ideas of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, the Fauves and Henri Matisse--influences that would emerge in her painting over the next several years.
Precipitated by World War I, Münter travelled with her long-term companion Kandinsky to Switzerland, before he left her to go to Moscow. In order to maintain contact, they arranged for relatives of Herwarth Walden, the owner of Der Sturm Galerie in Berlin, to forward their letters to one another via Sweden. The couple's correspondence grew increasingly strained over this time, but Münter travelled to Stockholm in July of 1915 with the intention of meeting Kandinsky in the neutral country to restore their relationship. She met him there for the last time in 1916 and despite Kandinsky's promise to return to Stockholm, he secretly married a young Russian woman soon after his return to Moscow. Münter would never see Kandinsky again. The present lot was painted immediately following this difficult separation.
The year 1916 marked the beginning of a new phase of creativity for Münter. Her work was influenced in many ways by Kandinsky but she did not share his drive towards a transcendental form of non-objective art, the beginnings of which can be perceived in her earlier work and also in Mai-Abend in Stockholm. Instead, Münter helped to forge a new type of painting characterized by bold simplification, flattened spatial perspective and vivid use of color. This was partly inspired by the expressivity and sincerity she identified in children's artwork, which she began to collect in 1908, and the outlined planes of pure color found in traditional Bavarian glass painting common to the her homeland. The brightly colored houses of Stockholm complemented Münter's obsession with chromatics and the distillation of forms. As seen in Mai-Abend in Stockholm, the continuous planes, windows and walls of the market town gave the artist many options for contrasts within a restricted space, allowing her to impose a structure that made the perspective of her composition secondary to the relationships between broad areas of bright color. Today, Münter is widely appreciated for her contribution as a major participant in a revolutionary movement which reinvented color, form and meaning in painting.
(fig. 1) View of a wall of Gabriel Münter's exhibition at Liljevalchs Kontshall, Stockholm, 1917. c Gabriel Münter-und Johannes Eichner-Stiftung, Munich.