Yellow fields. Green forests. Blaue Reiter.
Modersohn and Münter: How artists* make school in groups and colonies.

Wild nature, special light, uncluttered locals: enthusiastic about the original life far from the city, at the turn of the 19th/20th century, painters were drawn in droves to remote places. Some provincial nests set a precedent and achieved international fame as birthplaces of new art movements. Worpswede and Murnau were among them.


Worpswede Wonderland

For artists weary of civilization, the provinces fulfilled their longing for a simple life close to nature, far away from the metropolises. And so artists with common goals join together in ever new colonies and groups in many places in Europe. In France, the light-flooded south was the place to be; in Germany, the unspoiled nature of godforsaken stretches of land along the coast and in the mountains.

Worpswede is considered a model artists' colony. Otto Modersohn was one of the first artists to settle in this village near Bremen. He reported on his arrival: "Wednesday, July 3, 1889, I arrived here with F. Mackensen full of expectation. I saw almost immediately that my expectations were not deceived. I found a most original village, which made a thoroughly strange impression on me; the hilly sandy soil in the village itself, the large mossy thatched roofs, and on all sides, as far as one could see, everything as wide and as large as on the sea."

Otto Modersohn, who had turned away early on from the classical-idealist academy art of his time in favor of simplified impressionist landscape painting, moved to Worpswede and formed a group of like-minded artists with Fritz Mackensen, Hans am Ende, Heinrich Vogeler and Fritz Overbeck. The group drew creative strength from spiritual immersion in nature. Under the open sky, landscape paintings are created, inspired by the lonely landscape with the mysterious Teufelsmoor, the high sky and the special play of colors. And that goes down well: After the rather bumpy start at the first joint exhibition in the Bremen Kunsthalle in 1895, the Worpswede celebrate the breakthrough at the subsequent exhibition in the Munich Glass Palace.

In 1901, Otto Modersohn, who had recently been widowed, married Paula Becker, who was 25 at the time. She herself had visited Worpswede for the first time in the summer of 1897 and, obviously deeply impressed by the landscape and the magic of the place, enthused: "Worpswede - that's a wonderland". She also liked the artists' community there and soon belonged to it. But for the self-confident and highly talented painter, life in the provinces became too confining. Again and again Paula is drawn to Paris, where she is on the trail of modernism and takes her cue from artists such as Cézanne and Gauguin.

Otto Modersohn was one of the few who noticed that his wife was not a "painting woman" from Worpswede, but a truly great artist. He himself - down-to-earth, earthy, bound to the traditions of the 19th century - lagged behind her as a painter. 

 In 1906 Paula leaves her husband and goes to Paris, where trend-setting works are created. These Expressionist portraits, in which she makes her naked body the subject as a matter of course, are considered the first nude self-portraits in art history; some read in them the beginning of the self-liberation of modern women.

In 1907 Paula returned to Worpswede and reconciled with her husband. After the birth of her daughter Mathilde, the painter, only 31 years old, dies on November 20. Her last words: "What a pity".

 And Otto Modersohn? After Paula's death, he moved to the neighboring village of Fischerhude, where he married the singer and painter Luise Breling a short time later. At her side followed 36 years of artistic activity. Fischerhude became the central location of the artist's third creative period - after Westphalia and Worpswede.

1865 Soest - 1943 Fischerhude

Bauerngarten in Fischerhude / Das Haus der Modersohns. 1911

An almost private insight into Otto Modersohn's time in Fischerhude is provided by the oil painting to be offered for sale by NEUMEISTER in September, which shows the Modersohns' house together with a farm garden in Fischerhude. It shows an expressively designed landscape with garden. The motif seems unspectacular and sketchy, the representation simplified - and yet the painting is full of atmosphere and intimate mood (estimate: 12,000-15,000 euros).

And: The September auction will also feature Paula Modersohn-Becker's small etching "Gänsemagd" ("Goose Girl"), painted in 1900 or 1902 (estimate: 1,500 euros).

More than a companion

However deeply artist couples may be connected on a human level, they can hardly defend themselves against the often controversial reception of their work. This is shown by the example of Modersohn-Becker and ¬¬- much more blatantly - Gabriele Münter, who stood in the shadow of Wassily Kandinsky for almost 15 years and for a long time was perceived merely as a companion of the genius - "due to a lack of self-confidence and the female understanding of roles at the time," as can be read on the homepage of the Tourist Information Murnau. Today, Gabriele Münter is recognized as an independent representative of Expressionism and a pioneer of modernism - something she had to fight for a long time. 

The story of the two begins in 1901, when Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky met and fell in love in Munich. They traveled the world for a few years, finally settling in Murnau am Staffelsee. "... nowhere had I seen such a wealth of views united as here ... , between lake and high mountains, between hilly country and moss," Gabriele Münter would describe her enthusiasm almost 50 years later. In 1909, she bought a house in Murnau's Kottmüllerallee to live in with Wassily Kandinsky during the summer months until 1914. The property, called the "Russenhaus" by contemporaries, became a meeting place for the avant-garde; in particular, artists from the circle of the "Blaue Reiter" spun out ideas here that pointed art in a new direction. 

Two days after the outbreak of World War I, Münter and Kandinsky left for Switzerland, where they parted ways a short time later. He was drawn to his native Russia, she ended up in Scandinavia. The two met there for the last time in 1916, then Kandinsky, who had found a new love in Russia, cut off contact. 

1877 Berlin - 1962 Murnau/Oberbayern

Tigerlilie. 1932

In 1920 Gabriele Münter returned to Germany, lived in different places and went through a long creative crisis. After restless years, the artist settles permanently in Murnau in 1931. With the art historian Johannes Eichner, whom she had met in Berlin in 1927 and with whom she had lived in Murnau since 1936, she succeeded in making a new private start. It is also her new partner who motivates her to make an artistic comeback.

As in the days of the Blaue Reiter, Gabriele Münter's painting during this period concentrated on motifs from the domestic and landscape environment. In many cases, flowers from the wonderful little garden serve as inspiration for still lifes. This is also the case in her 1932 oil painting "Tiger Lily", which dates from the beginning of her second major creative phase and will be auctioned by NEUMEISTER in September. The work shows a typical still life of the late years. Lilies are arranged in a small blue vase on a table. Flowers and branches form the composition in the foreground. They stand out brightly in form and color against the Murnau landscape in the background. With the simplification that follows on from the early years and the almost arabesque stylization, the present painting illustrates Gabriele Münter's artistic reorientation. The flower painting is offered at an estimated price of 30.000 to 50.000 Euro.

Wege zu Kunst

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) ist die erste Malerin der Welt, der ein ganzes Murnau Museum gewidmet wurde. Seit 1927 erinnert das Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum in Bremen an sie.


Das Otto-Modersohn-Museum in Fischerhude hat sich seit seiner Eröffnung im Jahr 1974 vom Nachlassmuseum zum beliebten Ausflugsziel für Kunstinteressierte gemausert. 


Große Kunstschau: In einem Baukunstwerk des Expressionismus werden bedeutende Werke der Worpsweder Gründergeneration aber auch nachfolgender Künstlergenerationen gezeigt.

Die Worpsweder Kunsthalle besitzt die wohl bedeutendste Überblickssammlung zur Kunstgeschichte des Ortes. 

Werke des Malers, Grafikers, Designers und Architekten Heinrich Vogeler (1872-1942) werden in einer vielschichtigen Ausstellung im Barkenhoff, dem einstigen Wohn- und Atelierhaus des Mitbegründers der Worpsweder Künstlerkolonie, gezeigt.

Das "Haus im Schluh", ein Hofensemble aus reetgedeckten Niedersachsenhäusern, beherbergt ein Museum mit Werken Heinrich Vogelers und hübsche Ferienwohnungen mit originalen und neu gefertigten Heinrich-Vogeler-Möbeln.

Die "Worpsweder Käseglocke" empfiehlt sich als Museum für Worpsweder Möbel und Kunsthandwerk . 


Zahlreiche Werke Gabriele Münters sind im Münchner Lenbachhaus zu sehen, im Schlossmuseum Murnau sowie in dem nach ihr benannten Haus in Murnau.



Meisterwerke von Gabriele Münter und Wassily Kandinsky aus Privatsammlungen
6. Juli bis 9. Oktober 2022
Schlossmuseum Murnau

Das Schloßmuseum Murnau hat das große Glück, das 1909 entstandene Gemälde „Treppe zum Schloß“ von Wassily Kandinsky, das lange Zeit als verschollen galt, präsentieren zu dürfen. Jetzt kehrt es nach mehr als 100 Jahren erstmalig wieder an seinen Entstehungsort zurück.
Daraus ist die Idee geboren worden, eine Ausstellung mit Werken von Gabriele Münter und Wassily Kandinsky zu zeigen, die sich, ähnlich wie „Treppe zum Schloß“, seit langer Zeit in privaten Sammlungen befinden und einen Bezug zur gemeinsamen Murnauer Schaffenszeit des Paares haben.


Parallel dazu vermitteln Fotografien aus dieser Zeit neue Eindrücke. So u. a. aus dem ebenfalls wiederentdeckten und 2021 restaurierten Nachlass des Murnauer Fotografen August Pöltl (1881–1958).