Gabriele Münter was born on February 19, 1877 in Berlin. In 1897 she attended the Damen-Kunstschule (Ladies Art School) in Düsseldorf. She traveled with her sister in the United States for the following two years, visiting relatives in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. By 1901 she had returned to Germany and resumed her studies at the Künstlerinnenschule (School of Women Artists) in Munich. At this time the official academies in Düsseldorf and Munich did not admit women. In 1902 Münter began studying under Vasily Kandinsky at the art school of the Phalanx group in Munich. Münter's relationship with Kandinsky soon developed into an intimate companionship that would last for 14 years, until 1916. From 1904 to 1908 the two artists traveled throughout Europe and North Africa, spending more than a year in France. In 1909 Münter joined the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM; New Artists' Association of Munich), but she withdrew from the group to join Kandinsky and German artist Franz Marc in the newly formed group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) in 1911.
In 1909, Münter purchased a house in Murnau, in the Bavarian countryside just outside Munich, where she and Kandinsky would spend every summer until the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. At that time Kandinsky, still a Russian citizen was forced to leave Germany and return to his native country. Münter initially joined Kandinsky in exile, but the two artists soon parted ways. Their relationship ended in 1917. Münter subsequently stopped painting and traveled extensively for ten years. In 1927 she met art historian Johannes Eichner, who became her lifelong companion. The two returned to Murnau in 1930, where Münter lived and worked until her death. Despite the limitations on artistic experimentation legislated and enforced by the National Socialist (Nazi) party, Münter continued to paint landscapes, portraits, and still lifes. In 1937, an exhibition of her work at the Kunstverein Münchner (Munich Art Association) was closed by the local Nazi district leader. After the war, the Braunschweiger Kunstverein (Brunswick Art Association) mounted a retrospective of her work in 1948, and in 1956 she was awarded the Culture Prize in Painting by the city of Munich. In 1957, for her 80th birthday, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich held a retrospective of her work. Shortly before her death Münter presented the city of Murnau with 120 works by Kandinsky and 60 of her own paintings. She died on May 19, 1962, in Murnau.