The Russians’ House

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A few years ago my daughter and I went on a trip to Murnau in Bavaria, southern Germany. For a long time I had wanted to see ‘The Russians’ House’, as it was known in the early 20th century, when Vassily Kandinsky lived there with his lover Gabriele Münter. (Now it is known as ‘The Münter House’.) Here Kandinsky, Münter and other artists – amongst them Russians Alexei Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin, and Germans August Macke and Franz Marc – formed the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) group.

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‘In 1909 Gabriele Münter (1877-1962) purchased this simple country house which contained few home comforts, even by the standards of those times. While Münter lived here with Vassily Kandinsky, their home was an important meeting place for avant-garde artists. From 1909 to 1914, unless they were in Munich or travelling, Münter and Kandinsky spent their summer months here, hosting the many collectors, critics and artists who visited them. A regular guest from 1912 onwards was Franz Marc (1880-1916) who lived nearby. (There is a fine modern museum celebrating his work at Kochel am See.)

The Münter house was the setting for one of the single most important achievements in modern art – the development of abstraction. It was here that Kandinsky and Marc discussed and drafted the Blaue Reiter Almanac. Here Gabriele Münter kept her precious collection of works by Kandinsky and other Blaue Reiter artists, safeguarding them throughout the years of Nazi rule, and eventually presenting them on the occasion of her 80th birthday to the City of Munich. They can be seen there in the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus.’ (text adapted from ‘The Münter House in Murnau’, published by Prestel, 2000.)

Apart from the art history and Russian interest, it’s just a delightful place to visit, full of colourful folk art objects and decoration, with several of Münter’s own wonderful paintings on the walls. Kandinsky is so well known for his later somewhat challenging abstract works that it is intriguing to look at the earlier more representational paintings he produced in Murnau, and at evidence of his apparently idyllic domestic life there.

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I bought this book at the house – full of atmospheric photographs of Kandinsky, Münter, their friends, their travels and their life in Bavaria. (The book was produced in 2007 in conjunction with an exhibition at the Lenbachhaus in Munich.)

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Kandinsky in Bavarian folk dress with his mother in the house at Murnau, April 1913

 

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