September 12, 2014 – extended until February 15, 2015
Off to Munich! Female artists around 1900

‘Off to Munich!’, wrote Gabriele Münter in her diary in 1901 after finding out about the Ladies’ Academy (Damen-Akademie) from her friend, Margarete Susmann. She was one of many young women from a predominantly upper middle-class background who gravitated towards Munich in order to study art.

Around 1900, Munich combined a flourishing art scene with its role as a centre for the women’s movement. It was home to some of its leading lights such as Ellen Amann and Anita Augspurg. Moves were also being made to found several women’s organizations in the city, including the Gesellschaft zur Förderung der geistigen Interessen der Frau (Society for the Promotion of Women’s Intellectual Interests). One of the main aims of the women’s movement, alongside promoting women’s civic and social rights, was to increase the educational opportunities open to them. This included calls for women to be allowed to study at university, something that finally became possible in 1903 in Bavaria. However, any woman who wished to pursue a career in the arts would still face a long and futile struggle if she wanted to be admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, a battle that she would not win until 1919. Polish artist Zofia Stryjenska tried to circumvent the ban by enrolling under her brother’s name. She studied at the Academy for a whole year disguised as a man before her true identity was revealed and she was forced to leave. Women who were not prepared to go to such lengths could pursue their education in private studios and art schools. There were several of these schools in Munich around the turn of the century, and they were open to male and female students alike. However, the standards of artistic education on offer were not always particularly high.

In 1882, a group of women decided to take matters into their own hands and founded the Künstlerinnen-Verein (Ladies’ Art Association) in order to offer budding female artists the opportunity to pursue a professional education in the arts. Two years later, they opened the Münchner Damen-Akademie (Munich Ladies’ Academy) which they modelled on the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. As we have seen, Gabriele Münter enrolled in the Academy as did Käthe Kollwitz, who was still known at that time by her maiden name of Käthe Schmidt. The institution’s reputation spread rapidly and it soon began to attract numbers of young women from Germany and abroad.

For some years, women had been allowed to learn a craft or train as an art teacher, and indeed the State even provided support for this training. In 1872, for example, the ‘Women’s Department’ of the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule (Royal School of Arts and Crafts) had already begun to train women to teach drawing. The Lehr- und Versuchsatelier für Angewandte und Freie Kunst (Teaching and Experimental Studio for Applied and Fine Arts), known as the ‘Debschitz School’ for short, was founded in Munich in 1902. This reformist institution opened its doors to women from day one and thus became extremely popular. In1905 women were finally admitted to the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie (Teaching and Experimental Institute for Photography), after which their work quickly met with success.

Against this historical backdrop, the exhibition – which covers an area of 750 m² – will provide an unprecedented insight into the creative output of women at this time. It features around 300 works of well-known, little-known and forgotten female artists and includes paintings, sculptures, graphic art, furniture, jewellery, ceramics, glass and china artefacts, textiles and photographs.

The graphic art and paintings section includes works by Maria Filser (married name Caspar-Filser, 1878 Riedlingen a.d. Donau – 1968 Brannenburg), Martha Cunz (1876 St. Gallen – 1961 St. Gallen), Elena Makowsky (married name Luksch-Makowsky, 1878 Sankt Petersburg – 1967 Hamburg), Olga Meerson (1879 Moskau – 1930 Berlin), Gabriele Münter (1877 Berlin – 1962 Murnau), Käthe Schmidt (married name Kollwitz, 1867 Königsberg – 1945 Moritzburg), Maria Slavona (1865 Lübeck – 1931 Berlin) and Zofia Lubańska-Grzymała (married name Stryjeńska, 1891 Krakau – 1976 Genf).

The arts and crafts section features pieces by Wera von Bartels (1886 München – 1922 München), Dora Polster (married name Brandenburg-Polster, 1884 Magdeburg – 1958 Böbing), Margarethe von Abercron (married name von Brauchitsch, 1865 Frankenthal – 1957 München), Sofie Hartmann (married name Burger-Hartmann, 1868 München – 1940 München), Emmy von Egidy (1872 Pirna – 1946 Weimar), Minnie Goossens (1878 Aachen – 1968 Attel bei Wasserburg), Gertrud Kleinhempel (1875 Schönefeld bei Leipzig – 1948 Althagen an der Ostsee), Lotte Pritzel (1887 Breslau – 1952 Berlin) and Gertraud von Schnellenbühel (1878 Jena – 1959 Jena).

The works of Anita Augspurg (1857 Verden – 1943 Zürich) and Sophia Goudstikker (1865 Rotterdam – 1924 München) and art photographer Wanda von Kunowski (married name Debschitz-Kunowski , 1870 Gut bei Czarnikau – 1986 Lausanne) are among those to be found in the photography section.


The exhibition is accompanied by a 415-page catalogue featuring some 300 images, published by Süddeutsche Zeitung Edition. It is available (only in German) at a price of € 29.90 from the museum’s ticket office and at our online shop.