Gabriele Munter Paints Winter

The pictures I have selected all have one thing in common - snow! We are getting our first snow storm this weekend here in Maine, so I thought it was appropriate! I love the confidence Münter shows in depicting snow. It is a subject that is rather difficult for most painters, in that, if you just try to grab that tube of "titanium white", it tends to go south! Like a good sky, there are so many subtleties to create when painting snow.


The first picture, Häuser im Schnee (Houses in Snow), 1933, represents Münter's amazing eye for both abstraction, and painting snow. The purple shadow on the snow in the lower right, along with the purple shadow on the mountain that extends the whole width of the painting both work together geometrically to support the entire composition. Notice that the snow on the mountain top is almost yellow, and that the patch of snow in the foreground to the left also is warm with yellows and slight pink. This sense of structure and balanced hues lets us accept the fact that the trees, and parts of the houses are very dark, almost in silhouette. The bright blue sky at the top of the picture lends the feeling that the day has been one of those  spectacularly clear winter days. Days when we don't mind the bitter wind, and we look forward to our place by the fire as the sun goes down.


The second picture, Landschaft mit blauen Bergen und See (Landscape with Blue Mountains and Lake), 1933/34, very closely resembles the first one in style and mood. Again, the structure as a whole is supported by large chunks of geometric patterns, which is very Fauve. The blue on both the mountains, with the teal in the middle ground, offset by the  bright yellow snow, again gives the feeling of late afternoon on a very clear day in winter. I love how the roofs of the houses are bright blue, reflecting the very top of the picture plane, and also the shadows in the snow in the foreground. With all of these sections so balanced, the fact that there is very little detail in any one part does not matter. And again, this is what the Fauves were able to do so well......evoke a feeling and sense of place with form and color!


The third picture, Hof im Schnee, (Town in Snow), 1911, evokes the feeling of a busy middle of the day or midmorning, with two figures making their way through the snow on some shopping or social errands. This painting is very expressive and free form in the handling of paint, and is what creates a feeling of quickness and spontaneity. This kind of crazy looseness is something I am truly in awe of. To the untrained looks messy....and maybe even awful. However, upon close inspection, we realize that the artist is keenly aware of what she is doing. Light is beautiful. The way each building is illuminated with various colors is startling. Why? Because the use of these particular colors produces  enough reality that we are actually comfortable placing ourselves in the picture. Indeed, it feels like we are right behind her easel! How did she do it? A painting professor used to repeat this mantra....."there is no light in painting, only color!"


I picked the fourth picture, Schneelast (Snow Load), 1943, because of its sense of fun. We can almost see this as a still picture from some kids book or maybe even those stills from when they actually used to paint each cartoon frame by hand. Because I have read many of her letters, I know that she probably suffered from depression, and this lighthearted picture to me is just very fun, and shows a bit of whimsy. Again, this one affords us the opportunity to really look at the colors in the snow. If you look to the very bottom, and to the right, there is some pretty saturated yellow there. There is actually quite a lot of yellow and ochre in this is why it feels so balanced, when at first glance we might just notice the white and blue of the snow. 


And finally, the last one being a self portrait from 1909, really the height of the Fauve movement. She shows herself to be quite a confident figure here, with her face being more realistic, and letting herself indulge in very loose brushstrokes throughout the rest of the picture. Her palette is just really an outline and very simply colored in. The green shadow on the inside of her hat perfectly balances with the bright red of a picture frame in the foreground, her necklace, and the very loose orange and red strokes that make up the top of the picture and the wall behind her. Another Fauve technique used often by Henri Matisse; blending in the background and making it flat and abstract.
If you have read all the way to the end of this post, congrats, and definitely thank you! I will add it to my blog on my website, so you can consult it later if you wish. Put a log on the fire.....storm's coming!