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Impressionist & Modern Art / GABRIELE MÜNTER (1877-1962) Friedhoftor (Murnau) 12 7/8 x 16 1/16 in (32.7 x 40.8 cm) (Painted in Murnau in 1908)

Friedhoftor (Murnau)
2022 年 5 月 18 日 17:00 EDT










Friedhoftor (Murnau)
inscribed and dated '08 Friedhoftor.' (on the reverse)
oil on board
12 7/8 x 16 1/16 in (32.7 x 40.8 cm)
Painted in Murnau in 1908


The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Gabriele Münter und Johannes Eichner Stiftung. This work will be included in the forthcoming Gabriele Münter catalogue raisonné, currently being prepared.

The artist's studio, Munich.
Herbert Ernest Bates Collection, Kent.
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London, no. 03218.
Jean Peter Taylor Collection, San Francisco (acquired from the above on June 16, 1965).
Thence by descent to the present owner in 1977.

London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Gabriele Münter, Oil Paintings 1903-1937, September – October 1960, no. 8.

"My pictures are all moments of life; I mean instantaneous visual experiences, generally noted very rapidly and spontaneously. When I begin to paint, it's like leaping suddenly into deep waters, and I never know beforehand whether I will be able to swim. Well, it was Kandinsky who taught me the technique of swimming. I mean that he has taught me to work fast enough, and with enough self- assurance, to be able to achieve this kind of rapid and spontaneous recording of moments of life."
- Gabriele Münter

As one of the pioneering artists of Der Blaue Reiter, Gabriele Münter played a significant part in the emergence of Germany's avant-garde and is one of the key female figures within the art historical discourse of the twentieth century.

From a young age Münter yearned to be an artist, and went to study at the Ladies Art School in Düsseldorf in 1897 when she was twenty years old. The academic curriculum did not spark her interest or creativity and Münter decided to embark on an overseas adventure to the United Stated instead. Upon her return to Germany in 1901, Münter settled in Munich and enrolled into the experimental and progressive art classes taught at the Phalanx School. It was one of the very few academies in Germany where woman could study alongside men, and it was here where the artist explored her artistic freedom, paved a way to her own visual lexicon, and realized that art could be more than just a recreational skill.

Münter's painting classes were taught by Wassily Kandinsky, who was the president of Phalanx and had lived and worked in Munich since 1897. Enthralled by his personality as well as his methodical approach to painting and spirituality, Münter was motivated to develop her artistic career. Their pupil-teacher relationship swiftly transformed into a romantic one, and the two were formally engaged in 1903. At the time Kandinsky was already married to a Russian woman, and although the pair was willing to separate, it was legally impossible to get a divorce. Nevertheless, Kandinsky would introduce Münter as 'my wife' from that point on. Their love relationship was greater than an official marriage according to Kandinsky, and they decided to travel together throughout Europe and North Africa from 1904 to 1907. Here she would continue to paint in search for her own style.

After her studies at the Phalanx School, Münter's greatest challenge was mastering color techniques which she would test during her time abroad. She mostly painted impressionistic landscapes, but during her time in Paris in 1906 and 1907 her output slowly began to change. Münter familiarized herself with the color theories of Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Kees van Dongen and Paul Gauguin. In Paris she also explored woodcuts, as the medium allowed Münter to clarify the relationship between color and plane. Encouraged by this experimental approach, she was finally able to reject the impressionistic painting techniques of staccato dabbing. Concurrently, the Fauves experienced artistic heights and their work was showcased all over Paris. Their liberation of color must have made a profound impression on her, although it would not have an immediate effect on her personal work. However, these influences would become significantly visible in her work when she returned to Germany in the following year.

In 1908 Münter and Kandinsky toured the Bavarian countryside in search of a place to settle permanently. They came across the picturesque village of Murnau, situated in the rolling hills by the Staffelsee with sweeping mountain views. This environment presented the perfect conditions for the artists to paint and they formed a new group with Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej Jawlensky who had also settled in the village. A period of intense and undisturbed creativity followed as the four of them, away from the turmoil and bustle of city life, painted the tranquil village and its surrounding landscapes on numerous occasions. Münter later recalled, "After a short period of agony 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).

Münter's artmaking underwent a significant transformation during this time. Her painting style of this period is characterized by the simplification of forms, flattened spatial perspective, and the use of bold and vivid colors. The influences of the Fauves, the woodcuts, as well as working with artists such as Jawlensky, who had worked together with the Nabis in Pont-Aven, began to appear in Münter's own work. They culminated into a new visual lexicon, which would distinguish her as one of the most influential modern artists of her time.

The present work is one of the oils where Münter's unique style is becoming visible. Painted in 1908 in Murnau, it stems from the apex of the artist's career. Friedhoftor is an en plein air scene of the cemetery entrance in Murnau, a subject the artist painted on numerous occasions. Münter captures the unobtrusive subject of a cemetery in flat planes of color and condenses the essential components of the scene, which is expressively rendered with swift, vigorous brushwork. The sweeping curves of the pathway, constructed of loose brush strokes in complementing shades of lilac, greens and blues, draw the eye to the center of the composition. On the right, gravestones are executed in distilled geometrical forms, outlined by a contrasting deep hue of purple; the stone wall is delineated with horizontal strokes of red, interrupted with bands of blue. In the background, colorful buildings with simplified shapes emerge behind the green foliage. The windows are each marked by a quick brushstroke of blue and green which stand out against the brightly hued façades of the houses which are filled with solid color. The left of the composition is dominated by simplified forms of green foliage; a tree and a bush are executed in various tones of green and are contoured by a navy-black hue.

Friedhoftor has a distinguished provenance, with a history that can be traced back to the artist's studio. From there, it was acquired by the English writer Herbert Ernest Bates, famed for his novels Love for Lydia and The Darling Buds of May. In 1960, Friedhoftor was included in the exhibition Gabriele Münter, Oil Paintings 1903 – 1907, at Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. in London. The exhibition was co-curated by Dr. Hans Konrad Röthel, Director of the Städtische Galerie und Lenbachgalerie in Munich, who secured most of the loans for this exhibition. In 1956, Röthel was the first to see the complete personal art collection of Kandinsky and Münter, which Münter had stored in the basement of her house in Murnau to protect it from the National Socialists. A significant part of the collection was donated to the museum the following year.

Friedhoftor was included in the exhibition under number 8, titled Entrance to a Cemetery. At the time, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. played a significant role in promoting twentieth century art from Germany and Austria in the United Kingdom. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the gallery showcased a series of exhibitions in relation to Expressionism and the Modern German tradition, starting with the 1959 exhibition Art in Revolt: Germany 1905-1925. It was Münter's first solo show in the United Kingdom.

Five years later, Friedhoftor was acquired by Jean Peter Taylor. She was a director at the San Francisco based Maxwell Galleries, which specialized in 19th and 20th century American and European art. They were considered as one of the most prominent and influential West Coast galleries in their time. Taylor ran the gallery alongside its founder, Fred Maxwell.

Taylor acquired Friedhoftor during an eight week stay in Europe in May and June of 1965, where she immersed herself in the artistic scenes of Paris and London. During this trip she also acquired other works by artists such as Egon Schiele, George Grosz and Berthe Morisot at a few of the most prestigious European galleries. Since her death in 1977, the present work has remained in the same private collection. Friedhoftor arrives only now on the international market for the first time.

As one of the very few female artists of Der Blaue Reiter, there has been much attention focused on Münter's oeuvre in the last decades. Her work has received institutional attention, and recent solo shows were held at the Courtauld Institute (London, 2005), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark, 2018), and Zentrum Paul Klee (Bern, 2022). Other works from 1908 are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Albertina (Vienna).