Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Visiting the Gabriele Munter House in Murnau, Germany

In the summer of 1909, in the beautiful Bavarian town of Murnau, nestled in the Alps, the 20th century art movement, The Blue Rider (The Blaue Reiter) had its genesis. That was the summer that artists Gabriele Munter (1877-1962) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) found a charming house on the hill overlooking Murnau, with stunning views of the Alps. The colorful village houses, intense light, local folk art, along with images of St. George slaying the dragon, would inspire the ground breaking works of the artists of the Blue Rider movement. Kandinsky, Munter, Franz Marc, August Macke and Alexi von Jawlensky, painted together in this picturesque town, and influenced each other’s work.

                         Munter House in Murnau. Photo by Marie Dauenheimer

Kandinsky, Munter and their friends gathered at the “Russian House”, as the locals called it, to paint en plein air.  Influenced by local folk art  (paintings on small glass panels, with a bright palette and heavy dark lines) their work became more expressive, with an abstract quality.  After disassociating themselves from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München  art movement,  Kandinsky and Marc decided to start their own group, and write an almanac of their artistic philosophy.  Kandinsky took inspiration in his favorite images of St. George slaying the dragon, while Marc drew from his love of painting animals, combined the Blue Rider was born.  The first almanac featured a cover image of an abstracted horse and rider.

                    The Blue Rider Almanac cover by Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

The Blue Rider movement lasted from 1911-1914, and its artists shared a similar approach and sensibility to painting.  Their use of expressive, symbolic color, dramatic brushwork, and spiritual themes dominated their paintings.

                                      Yellow Cow by Franz Marc, 1911

Kandinksy and Munter lived in the “Russian House” from 1909-1914, when the onset of WWI forced Kandinsky and von Jawlensky to return to their native land of Russia.  Tragically, both Franz Marc and Auguste Macke were killed in battle.

                           Village Street in Murnau by Wassily Kandinsky, 1908

Gabrielle Munter lived in this beautiful house in Murnau until her death in 1962.

Staircase in Munter House painted  by Wassily Kandinsky, 1901. Photo  by Marie Dauenheimer

The Munter House is now a museum open to the public. I had the pleasure of visiting this historic home while recently traveling through Upper Bavaria. While none of Kandinsky’s paintings are on view, there are some of Munter’s works, along with hand painted furniture made by the couple, and local folk art, which inspired the Blue Rider artists. The presence of Kandinsky and Munter is felt in this house, their palettes are displayed side by side near a window overlooking one of the beautiful views that inspired them.

 Wassily Kandinsky and Gabrielle Munter's palettes, Munter House, photo by Marie Dauenheimer

An hour away in Munich the largest collection of Kandinsky’s work can be viewed at the Lenbachaus Museum.  In 1962 Gabriele Munter donated a vast collection of over
1,000 paintings, drawings and prints, all created by the Blue Rider artists.

                 View of Murnau from the Munter House. Photo by Marie Dauenheimer

For more information on the Munter House I recommend the book The Munter House in Murnau by Matthias Muhling and Isabelle Jansen.  There is also a wonderful chapter about the Munter House in the book Artists’ Houses by Gerard-Georges Lemaire.  

                                                 Dandelions by Gabrielle Munter

For more information on visiting the Munter House visit their website:


  1. Absolutely fascinating. I'm always interested in how small communities can create larger effects and influences. Classical Athens was smaller than every city in the US, and yet created the template for almost all subsequent thought. Precisely what the conditions are that create self-sustaining movements and whether they're contingent on the situation at the time or on the subsequent ages and imitators is a challenging question, especially if you want to replicate the effect.

  2. This movement definitely influenced me. Thanks for posting this! please keep posting more of your adventures in art history and anatomy! -Ralf