Reflection on a winter's day

Gabriele Münter, "Breakfast of the Birds", 1934, oil on board, 18 x 24 3/4 in., National Museum of Women in the Arts

In Breakfast of the Birds, Gabriele Münter takes a surprising viewpoint: depicting from behind a woman seated at her dining room table. The woman—sometimes identified as the artist herself—looks out the window onto a wintry landscape, where a group of titmice and a robin are perched on the snow-covered limbs of a tree.

This painting demonstrates the signature elements of Münter’s style: broad, thick, quickly applied brush strokes; heavy dark outlines; the ambiguous use of perspective( as the tilted tabletop, which clearly reveals everything on it but which does not conform to the angles from which the other elements of the picture are being viewed); and the lack of modeling, which makes the empty plate, for example, seem two-dimensional.

Münter frequently painted images of women in domestic interiors. Here the figure, sporting a decidedly modern haircut, seems to ignore her modest meal in favor of birdwatching. While critical interpretations vary, many scholars view this as a painting that stresses the contrast between indoor and outdoor spaces, emphasizing the woman’s solitude and her physical and emotional isolation.

Nancy G. Heller has a doctorate in art history from Rutgers University, is a writer and lecturer on the arts who has presented numerous talks on women artists at various museums, colleges, and other universities.

5 thoughts on “Reflection on a winter's day

  1. This is a painter I would like to see enter into the broad vocabulary of brilliant 20th century painters. I want to use it as a pivot for a painting workshop..so evocative it is.

  2. It’s a beautiful painting and I would like to get a good print or even a copy of it.

  3. I love this painting…. and wonder why commentators on art insist so often on the negative. To me, this is a wonderful, peaceful portrait of a woman enjoying the view of the birds outside her window–not stressing “the woman’s solitude and her physical and emotional isolation” but rather her connection to the birds so immediately outside the window. To me, it connects those two worlds.

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