Adolf Münzer ranks with Reinhold Max Eichler, Fritz Erler and Leo Putz as one of the leading representatives of the Munich artists’ group Die Scholle. Some of the group’s members met as students at the Munich Academy of Art, while others worked together at the magazine Jugend. Between 1899 and 1911 they exhibited as a group at the Munich Glaspalast and the Munich Secession. Although Die Scholle had no firm programme and saw itself more as a loose association of artists with no mutual objective other than that “jeder seine eigene ‘Scholle’ bebaue, die freilich auf keiner Landkarte zu finden ist” [lit. ‘each member should plough his own furrow, though that would certainly not be found on any map’], the group embodied one of the most progressive trends in painting at the turn of the twentieth century in Munich.
Münzer grew up in Breslau where he trained as a scene painter before taking up his studies at the Kunst- und Gewerbeschule. He left Breslau to further his studies at the Munich Academy of Art from 1890 to 1897. He attempted to eke out a living as a freelance painter but in 1896 began to supplement his income by producing illustrations for the magazine Jugend. He quickly rose to become one of the magazine’s leading contributors. Many of his drawings were published on the cover page of the magazine. He maintained his working relationship with the magazine until the 1930s. However, his career at the satirical magazine Simplicissimus was only short-lived, lasting from 1896 to 1900.
Münzer’s illustration work for Jugend guaranteed him a regular income and was also an important factor in his artistic development. The magazine’s publisher Georg Hirth offered to finance a two-year study period in Paris from 1900 to 1902 which brought Münzer into contact with French fin-de-siècle book and poster design. Awakening to this influence, his draughtsmanship developed a new lightness and elegance. The drawings of subsequent years are marked by soft contours, dense internal detail and vibrant colour. The majority of these sheets focus on the daily lives of women and represent scenes set in haut bourgeois and bohemian circles.
Münzer, like the majority of the Scholle artists, had an abundance of decorative talent and knew how best to deploy this in large-format works in tempera and oil executed for public buildings. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, his breakthrough finally came in 1908 at the Ausstellung für angewandte Kunst [Exhibition of Applied Arts] in Munich, where he was represented with eight paintings commissioned to furnish a showroom for the textile and dressmaking industry.
In 1909, Münzer took up a professorship at the Düsseldorf Academy. He received a large number of commissions and executed murals for buildings throughout Germany until his retirement from the professorship in 1931. The character of the murals varies according to the type of commission. Some of the images communicate a feeling of ease and light-hearted sensuality, others have an allegorical or mythological character. Distinguishing features of the murals are compositional clarity and a certain formal severity, coupled with tonal subtlety and a balanced palette. Exhibitions, reviews and not least, Münzer’s work for Jugend have helped to disseminate awareness of this important aspect of his oeuvre.