Artist: Wassily Kandinsky
Name: Murnau Street With Women
Type: Canvas Print
Condition: Stretched (Ready to hang) or Rolled
Fresh Color Forever
Story behind the “Murnau Street With Women” painting:
Murnau is a small town located about an hour by train from Munich. Murnau is a picturesque town in the Alps’ foothills, on the shores of Lake Staffel. Staffel Lake, one of the warmest lakes in Bavaria, attracts many swimming enthusiasts in the summer, and green hills studded with picturesque houses attract hikers. Another natural wonder to the south of Murnau is the “Murnauer Moos,” or Murnau marshes, which are the largest wetland in Central Europe.
I’d been wanting to visit this Murnau for a long time, but I couldn’t make it. Finally, this summer, on one of the hottest days of August, I traveled to this paradise with my family. Traveling without a cultural and historical context is boring to me, but in Murnau, everything was fine with the context: there is a house where Kandinsky lived for five years with his girlfriend Gabriele Munter, a talented German expressionist artist.
Russian Russian House is now officially known as “Munterhouse,” the Munter house, but it also has a second name – “Russian house,” as it was dubbed by local residents who knew about the Russian origins of the founder of abstractionism who lived there from the beginning.
Many now-famous artists visited this house at one time, including Alexey Yavlensky and Marianna Verevkina, Franz Mark with his wife, artist Maria, August and Helmut Mack, Paul Klee, Heinrich Campedonk, and the famous composer and artist Arnold Schoenberg. The “Russian House” is known as the “Cradle of the Blue Horseman” by art historians because it was here in October 1911 that a meeting was held to prepare the almanac of the same name.
I wanted to learn more about Kandinsky and Munter’s joint period of life after returning from Murnau. I read several books about them and discovered on the Internet many paintings written by Kandinsky and Munter in this lovely setting. And, as is customary, I’d like to share it with anyone who is interested.
Kandinsky and Munter’s marriage was far from happy. He was intriguing and fruitful; they instantly understood each other and supported and inspired each other. This creative unity is a critical component of their relationship; Kandinsky cherished the dream of having a friend-colleague in art, and this may have been the driving force behind his attraction to Munter. Munter remembered Kandinsky’s sensitivity to her art for many years after the breakup, even though she couldn’t forgive him in a human way. Both of them were not endowed with simple personalities, and creative mutual understanding was insufficient to sustain their personal relationships, which became more complicated with each passing year. Mutual dissatisfaction grew and reached a climax in the final year before World War I. The surviving letters written during Kandinsky’s stay in Russia and Munter’s visits to relatives in Berlin, Bonn, and Herford convey the intensity of passions and growing alienation. It is unknown how long they would have lasted together if history had not intervened. With the outbreak of World War I, Kandinsky was forced to flee Germany and return to Russia, effectively ending their relationship. They last met in the winter of 1915-16 in Stockholm, where Kandinsky had another exhibition, and they parted without being able to end the “I.” Kandinsky did not find the strength to end the relationship, despite the fact that he recognized that they had reached an impasse; additionally, Gabriela managed to wrest from him a promise that in Russia he would begin preparing documents for marriage, which she really needed to legally formalize their more than ten-year union, which many condemned, but he did not keep his promises. Instead, he met 18-year-old Nina Andreevskaya in September of the same year, whom he married a year later. Munter spent the most difficult years of his life wandering around Scandinavia, closer to Russia, bombarding the elusive beloved with letters that went unanswered, inquiring about his whereabouts, and still hoping for something. She didn’t learn about Kandinsky’s marriage until many years later.
They first met in 1902. Munter, 25, came to study at the Phalanx, a newly opened Kandinsky School. The teacher and his students spent the summer of 1902 in Kohel, where the first artist rapprochement occurred. However, by this time, Kandinsky is married to his cousin Anna Chemyakina and believes that he is not entitled to be led by his feelings. He is no longer able to resist them by the end of the summer, so he asks Gabriele to leave Kochel without waiting for the end of the exit session. Munter visits his sisters in Bonn, while his wife Anya visits Kandinsky. They return to Munich in October, and communication is resumed. They try to suppress their mutual attraction and be just friends for a while, but Kandinsky breaks down and everything returns to normal. This is a difficult time for both of them. Kandinsky is unable to leave Anya, with whom he has shared his life for the past ten years and who has moved to a foreign country as a result of him. Munter is dissatisfied with the relationship of a love triangle and an eternal secret, and she demands that her beloved make a decision. Kandinsky decides to talk to his wife only in the summer of the following year, and she, being a tolerant and understanding person, sacrifices herself and lets him go in peace. Kandinsky left their shared apartment in September 1904. He’s been engaged to Gabriele for a year at this point, but he’s not ready to live with her. And this is simply to put the relationship to the test. Kandinsky finds a way out: he invites Munter to live with him away from Munich, where everyone knows him, and especially away from his abandoned wife, for whom he feels remorse. The couple travels for several years: 1903 in Holland, 1904-1905 in Italy, Tunis, Dresden, where they walk around “Saxon Switzerland,” then Brussels, Milan, and Rapallo, then the Paris suburb of Sevres, in the summer of 1907 in Switzerland on foot and by bicycle, and finally a year in Berlin. Looking at this list, they appear to be only to be envied; however, this is a very difficult time for both of them. Munter writes in his memoirs, “Life was too unstable to feel satisfied.” It’s easy to imagine how an unmarried woman living with a married man felt at the turn of the century. People looked at her with disdain; in hotels, they were not permitted to stay in the same room… Kandinsky is also depressed, especially during the Parisian year; Paris is alien to him, and he wishes to leave; Munter, on the other hand, plunges into the seething cultural life with pleasure, attending art courses; on this basis, the first serious quarrels emerge, accompanied by painful reflection on the correctness of the choice made, dissatisfaction, and new reproaches of conscience because of his wife.
After a trip to South Tyrol in April-May 1908, where the couple wrote the final sketches with a palette knife in the style of late impressionism, the couple returned to Munich, intending to stay in the city or its vicinity. Murnau enters their lives at this point.
They arrive after wandering around the neighborhood and are immediately captivated by this location.
Another famous pair of artists, Yavlensky and Verevkina, settle in Murnau for a few months on the advice of Kandinsky and Munter, and Kandinsky and Munter join them in late July and early August.
Both couples are residents of the Grisbroy Hotel.
The scenic diversity of the region in early autumn, as well as long conversations with art colleagues, contribute to the birth of a new vision and style, a breakthrough in painting. Munter writes a lot, up to five sketches a day. “After a short period of torment, I made a significant progress there: from copying nature in a more or less impressionistic manner to feeling the content, abstracting, and transferring the extract,” Gabriele would later write. Both couples returned to Murnau in the spring of 1909. Kandinsky was already the organizer of the “New Munich Association of Artists” at this point, which brought together Munich artists whose work did not fit into the traditional framework. This has been a particularly trying year for him and Munter.
In the summer of 1909, they rent Xaver Streidl’s newly built villa, which Kandinsky falls in love with at first sight. Munter buys a villa in a very short period of time, not without his influence.
From that point until the outbreak of World War I, the couple lives in this house during the warm season, receives guests, carefully cultivates the adjacent plot of land, and paints furniture, gradually transforming their home into a “Gesamtkunstwerk.” After breaking up with Kandinsky and wandering for several years, Munter returns to this house and lives there for the rest of his days. Many of Kandinsky’s works from their time together are still with her. Kandinsky returned to Germany with his young wife and attempted to reclaim his property through lawyers, but Munter refused. In rage, she wrote him a forty-page letter in which she detailed all of her grievances. Kandinsky admitted his guilt and left his paintings to her as “moral compensation.” Later, risking her life, she saved them from the Nazis in the basement of this house, and then, shortly before her death, she presented them to the Munich gallery in the Lenbach house, along with some of her paintings and paintings of other “Blue Rider” representatives from her collection. Kandinsky was never seen by her again.