A Rush of Color at the Boiler
Dr. Sandra Mühlenberend
Freelance Art Historian, Weimar
Artistic portrayals of work always comment on the respective type of labor. They describe, interpret, support, or criticize it. More so than other pictorial subject, they render visible a sensitive social sphere, if only because like no other area of life, work structures social formations and is associated with social regulation. This becomes apparent to a polarizing extent in the production of industrial paintings:[i] the first large-format painting of metal-industry work, Tableau der Industrie (Tableau of Industry), was produced in 1858 and glorifies industry in the form of allegories and symbols.[ii] In 1852, Ford Madox Brown, however, was the first to place the worker in the center of society. This was followed by a Social Realism that focused on hard and socially underrated work, a previously “inconceivable theme” in visual art. It is well known that Adolph von Menzel was a pioneer in this respect: in his painting Das Eisenwalzwerk (The Iron Rolling Mill) from 1875, he depicts the actual interior of a major industrial plant and exposes both the outer and inner constitution of the workers.
Starting from Menzel’s painting, artists’ statements on the industrial painting in the ensuing years range from the rejection to the affirmation of technology, often in the relationship between man and machine, between workers and production conditions. Until the end of World War I, some artists, such as Constantin Meunier or Otto Bollhagen, concentrated exclusively on industrial painting and developed it into an independent genre. Industrial paintings were produced for and commissioned by companies, and the first art exhibitions were organized.[iii] From the very beginning, a veristic realism with a marked sociocritical tendency took issue with the affirmative industrial painting, as is the case, for example, with Käthe Kollwitz, and eventually it was the formal innovations of the artistic avant-garde that advanced the image of work. It finally became altogether political after World War I, in particular in the Expressionist portrayals by Conrad Felixmüller, in works by Otto Dix and George Grosz, but also in the moderately expressive, documentary style of the likes of Richard Gessner. Creative artistic involvement with the image of work was enormous and differentiated; beginning in 1933, however, with the seizure of power by the National Socialists this shifted in the direction of a dominating aesthetic of power and violence.
After World War II, it was difficult for artists to take up the traditions of industrial painting that prevailed prior to 1933. Priority was given to processing the atrocities artistically, to producing paintings against the backdrop of destruction and human suffering. Artists such as Joseph Hegenbarth or Mia Münster cautiously approached reconstruction; the industrial painting seemed broken, the worker abstract. This would change with the division of Germany—East German government policy substantially promoted the genre, and West Germany pursued its revitalization with the exhibition Eisen und Stahl (Iron and Steel),[iv] which was opened in 1952 by Federal President Theodor Heuss. This exhibition was initiated by heavy industry,[v] and it was a “major image campaign” with the goal of “embedding heavy industry in its role as an ancillary patron in the public’s awareness. For in 1952, heavy industry was remembered more for its production of war commodities than for its promotion of art.”[vi]
At the time, the news magazine Der Spiegel wrote the following about the exhibition: “The industry patrons took a surprising new discovery home with them: although the artists [1500 participants] were free to submit a work of their choice in lieu of the obligatory iron and steel motif, more than eighty percent of them voluntarily decided for the theme-related assignment. This led academy director Kamps to immediately formulate the practical application: instead of leaving painters to their own devices, today one should preferably commission paintings from them. This not only helps them financially, but artistically as well. For new themes give rise to new impulses. After all, there is hardly an artist who would come up with the idea of visiting an iron and steel works himself. They were now all the more gripped by the rush of color of a blast furnace run-off, the dimensions of a relief train, or the dynamism in the movements of hardworking men.”[vii]
On the one hand, Eisen und Stahl demonstrated the will to renew, to disassociate oneself from National Social art, yet on the other a corporate iconography committed to tradition.
Bound to a client, up to that point paintings of industry and workers were no doubt a medium for a company to assess its historical state and served purposes of self-assurance and self-affirmation, and not mere decorum. Freelance works of art advanced the genre, looked behind the scenes, directly into the faces of the workers. After 1945, several artists were in a position to render this in a striking way—most notably Ruth Baumgarte.[viii]
Her portraits are testimony to the immense accomplishments, the hard work, and to the hardship suffered by workers during the reconstruction of industry in postwar Germany. The industrial working environments she paints demonstrate her efforts to reformulate the client-bound industrial painting in that she creates a combination of technical details, reduced dominance of machines over manpower, and an artistic aesthetic of perspective and formal design.
She is one of the few artists in the history of the industrial painting to have artistically addressed industry, technology, and labor; to date, she is bar none the only artist to have studied the subject directly in situ instead of based on references in her studio. She sets herself apart from the new visual paradigm, the pastel epoch,[ix] which beginning in the 1950s sought to suggest the lightness and the friendliness of industry. She is the one who looks into the workers’ faces, portrays them while they work, and in part uses new pictorial languages for depicting the power of physical labor. The fact that she sees herself as a worker situated somewhere between creation and bringing into being becomes particularly evident based on two self-portraits painted at two very different stages in her life.
Due to their kaleidoscopic content, artistic self-portraits are capable of directing one’s gaze toward the past and toward the artist’s self-reference. Only in this respect is the autonomous self-portrait the expression of the subjective in that it cannot be viewed as the document of an artist’s nature that reveals itself in all of its details, but also as a self-perception, ideal, and addressee-related construction. On the one hand, this field of tension is linked to very individual conditions of production that lie in the artist’s biography, and on the other hand to artistic developments and questions that can be experienced in the arc that stretches from artistic training to the establishment of oneself as an artist personality, for example by comparing an early self-portrait with a later one. Thus the two self-portraits by Ruth Baumgarte, the one from 1947 and the other from 1979, serve as the mirror of the theme of Arbeitswelten (Working Worlds) to the extent that in the first painting she not only stages herself as a creative artist, which is identifiable based on the iconography, but in the second painting appears to almost merge with the two genres she dealt with for more than two decades—industrial painting and worker painting.
Artistic work is creative in any form, even in the understanding of work per se: according to its economic definition as a component of manufacturing a product and in philosophical terms as a deliberate creative act. While the indicators for the early self-portrait are still based in the academic, or in the canon of artistic staging with brush and color palette—which in no way clouds the charm of the excellent, color-intense portrait—in the second one they are based on those she portrayed up to that point in time: workers in the factory.
The oil painting on hardboard from 1947 combines important references to her proficiency and her expertise, which on the one hand underscore her definition of herself as a freelance, independent artist, but on the other draw attention to her creative power. Baumgarte’s talent for using areas of color to compose forms that result in the representational picture and in part run into abstract areas already becomes apparent here, even though the academic dominates, which becomes evident based on essential details such as the gesture of the left hand, executed in all of its anatomical precision. The latter somewhat contradicts the cigarette she is nonchalantly holding in the corner of her mouth, whose glowing end makes reference to the end of the brush, which in turn ends in the extension in the color palette and introduces the lightness of her artistic skill by way of the individual color nuances of her smock and pullover in an imaginary triangle. The reference to her profession is heightened even more by the beret and studio details, such as the puppet hanging upside down on a line in the background. To what extent the situation of the puppet, at one time a popular drawing model or motif for modernist or avant-garde artists, can be interpreted as making reference to its elimination in art produced during the period of National Socialism can only be conjectured. It would not be surprising, nor would be the interpretation that the arts are upside down or even have to be brought back to life or renewed. With her portrait, she self-confidently suggests her participation as well as her origin in artists’ circles in the Weimar Republic.
Baumgarte, daughter of Kurt Rupli, the head of the Universum Film AG and majority shareholder in the Tobis film production company, and actress Margret Kellner-Conrady, spent her childhood in Berlin’s artists’ milieu. Familiar with the artistic experiments of an inquiring, searching generation, talented and encouraged, as a ten-year-old she experienced the shift to dictatorship and grew up in National Socialism and the art circle of her parents to become a young woman who ultimately began studying graphic arts and painting at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Berlin, while at the same time working for the Kaskeline animated film studio.
The professors who influenced her most were Gerhard Ulrich, Wilhelm Tank, and Kurt Wehlte, whose artistic expertise is reflected in her early oeuvre: the power of the drawing and the illustration in the tradition of Daniel Chodowiecki, whom Gerhard Ulrich taught as a master of his likes; anatomic knowledge and proficiency that Wilhelm Tank once studied under Hans Virchow and Paul Richter and communicated in an instructional yet strict way at the art academy. Baumgarte’s striking knowledge of color can be traced back to her courses with Kurz Wehlte. On Max Slevogt’s recommendation, beginning in 1933 Wehlte taught painting technique at the art academy in Berlin and set up teaching and experimental workshops for it.[x]
In a certain way, all of these teachers flank the artist’s self-portrait as a young woman, which she produced a year after completing her training. Yet her emancipation not only manifests in her serious gaze, but also in her virtuoso use of what she learned to create something very much her own. This points toward a new beginning, and in general to her setting out to create her own oeuvre.
She met the artist Eduard Busse at art school in 1943. They married that same year; they spent the night of their wedding in an air-raid shelter. Yet the artist couple was not granted many happy years. Due to the evacuation of the art academy, in 1944 Ruth Baumgarte transferred to Sonneberg into a master’s studio at the Staatliche Industrie- und Kunstgewerbeschule (State Vocation and Art School), which would close be closed shortly thereafter. Her fellow student Florian Breuer, a student of Max Kaus, forged the same path and inspired her during this period to begin with expressive painting with watercolor.
Baumgarte returned to Berlin several weeks before the end of the war. Anticipating the invasion of the Russian Army, Eduard Busse urged her to take her own life should the Russians capture the city. Fortunately, her subsequent suicide attempt failed. Along with her mother, the artist became victim to the forced evacuation of Berlin-Karlshorst, during the course of which she had to leave her apartment on Rheingoldstrasse 32. This initial, difficult postwar period under Russian occupation is marked by various commissioned work as an illustrator for one of the first German-Russian daily newspapers as well as her activity as an art teacher at the Ulrich-von-Hutten-Gymnasium. Her first jobs at least enabled her to return to her vacated apartment in the Soviet restricted area of Karlshorst on a special permit, and to salvage some of her personal things and her works.
In 1946 Baumgarte left Berlin, at first temporarily and then later permanently, and moved with her mother to Bielefeld, where she initially found accommodation with her husband’s family. However, the couple divorced in September 1946 before the birth of their son, Thomas; she continued to use the name Busse. As a freelance painter and graphic artist, who also mounted her first exhibitions, she not only provided for her own livelihood and that of her son, but also supported her mother and other members of the family. In the gravity of her own living situation, in which are brought to bear not only her separation and divorce from Eduard Busse, whose war experiences as a German soldier and prisoner of war collide with Ruth Baumgarte’s experiences, but massive tension in the family, she looked ahead self-confidently.[xi]
It was against this backdrop that she painted the self-portrait in 1947, which thirty-two years later barely resonates in the self-portrait from 1979. Memory fragments seem to emerge in the physiognomic resemblance, in the hairstyle, in the left hand, and in the collar of the blouse, as well as in the choice of format and the angle of her body. The seriousness in her gaze has also been maintained. Otherwise everything is different, less penetrable. She has shed any kind of artist-related attributes or attitudes; even the dispensation with color or oil, the turn toward chalk on colored paper could not be more contrastive, as well as the overall rendering of her person in a succession of shadows, in particular on the right half of her face. Neither are there dark circles under the eyes as a sign of hardship (war experiences or creative conflicts), but they are clear, almost piercing and commanding. The artist’s emotional state dominates her entire face, a certain severity coupled with sadness and exhaustion, yet self-confident despite everything.
At this point in time, Baumgarte was in her prime; for quite some time she had been running a gallery in Bielefeld in addition to her freelance work. She has three children, is married to the owner of the Eisenwerk Baumgarte iron mill, and established both artistically as well as socially. This is hardly reflected in her self-portrait. She appears to have risen out of one of her works—a worker in a factory. The charcoal crayon is drawing material and grime at once; the doorframe becomes a pipe, and the room behind it a factory hall. She looks inward, pauses, and concentrates the seriousness of a productive life in her gaze at the viewer.
It suggests itself to take up the painting Arbeiter (Worker) from 1961, not only because it is one of the strongest of the Arbeitswelten works. It is the male embodiment of Baumgarte’s portrait; it seems to be a painting that strikes an arc from being a seeking youth to being an experienced, knowledgeable adult. The artist concentrates proletarian existence in the watercolor by working out the typical in the individual without sacrificing the individual to the typical.
This becomes particularly evident in the painting Der Morgen (The Morning) from 1958, which features an older, emaciated worker in the foreground with an emphasis on his face; he seems to represent the suggested crowd of people in the street canyon in the background. Like Joseph Stella’s worker paintings from 1908, which were attributed to American Realism, Baumgarte uses a formal repertoire that engenders empathy without falling into sentimentality.
This distinguished her from industry-related artists; she remains loyal to herself, the subject, the worker, his position, and his importance. Her almost programmatic gaze feeds not only on her origin in an artists’ milieu, which provided her with a sensitivity for destinies and thought that crossed classes, but also on her brief period of socialization in Soviet-occupied Berlin in postwar Germany, which she catered to artistically and whose concept of the world and of the individual became palpable for her first-hand. The triad comprised of a freethinking upbringing, the rudiments of a communist education shortly after the war, and her enormous will to work and ultimately to survive against the backdrop of being self-sufficient toward the end of the war and in the years thereafter, is an indicator for her ability to read the everyday realities of workers. This influence permeates her entire oeuvre, be it in the working worlds, the portraits of simple people, or the later Africa portraits.[xii] Her approach to transgressing social and cultural boundaries becomes apparent when she includes these in the overcoming of everyday reality toward the aesthetic. This is the source of her modernity, quite in the spirit of Pierre Bourdieu: “Everything takes place as if the ‘popular aesthetic’ were based on the affirmation of continuity between art and life, which implies the subordination of form to function, or, one might say, on a refusal of the refusal which is the starting point of the high aesthetic, i.e., the clear-cut separation of ordinary dispositions from the specifically aesthetic disposition.”[xiii]
The Arbeitswelten cycle represents realism to the extent that it is based on the living experience. However, in the main work in this cycle Baumgarte does not translate this into an “objective” account of reality that developed out of a naïve practice but into synthetic, real montages of correlated documentary elements guided by the heightening of the theme and based primarily on color.
Her self-portrait of 1979—in the style of portraits of workers—demonstrates the importance work had for her in general, and in particular the formative influence executing sketches in industrial halls, her years and years of artistic work on the iron mill, had on Baumgarte in Bielefeld. Between 1953 and 1968, besides her artistic focus on the landscape and the portrait, she sketched, drew, and produced watercolors of scenes from industrial history as well as situations in the Baumgarte Werke, among others their annual corporate calendar.
It must have been a challenge for her, a self-chosen undertaking in connection with the working world of her second husband, Hans Baumgarte, the owner of the iron mill, whom she had married in 1952. In the beginning, in 1953, she probably used the opportunity as a classic commission to produce illustrations, falling back on standards she had been taught, which resemble the narrative book illustrations of her teacher Gerhard Ulrich. The drawings measure up to an adequate pictorial language and transport academic craftsmanship with signs of a modern approach in terms of form. With time, however, she descended into the industrial halls, into heavy industry.
In the ensuing years it becomes apparent how Baumgarte emancipates herself from tradition, how she takes up specific spatial characteristics of the industrial painting and defines and abstracts them in strong color palettes. While she may not break away from a realistic approach as the concentration of a formally modern style in, she produced compositions that have both illusionist depth and structure extensive pictorial color space.
Baumgarte processes the forms she sees, initially an academic one, which she harmoniously reduces and seeks to renew, and finally the actual model itself, which as a woman, as someone who is not an industrial worker, she studies down to the last screw; after looking at them in isolation, she then skillfully structures individual functions of various machines to form an overarching, coherent construct, a spatial order, allowing contemporary art to shine through in its dissolution.
The artist conversantly opens herself up to the new thematic subject: during her years of study at the art academy she produced pen-and-ink and charcoal drawings such as Arbeiter auf dem Dach (Workers on the Roof) in 1943 and Arbeitspause beim Verladen vor Ort der Salzblöcke auf die Schüttelrutsche (Break during Loading Blocks of Salt onto the Shaking Conveyor On Site) from 1943/44, whose painterly focus is obviously the sketchy reproduction of resting bodies.
In artistic depictions of work, the break has always had special status, as in this situation the worker can be easily studied and portrayed at rest.[xiv] However, it is striking that in comparison to the heroizing depictions of workers prevalent at the time, to the glorified labor power in National Socialist art, the worker is depicted in quiet seclusion. The isolated sense of group membership in both paintings, the disparate background, are an interpretational risk in German art between 1933 and 1945. The stooped postures do not conform to the racist, biological cult of the body typical for National Socialism. They are distinctly individual, reflective.
The concentration on the body in a relaxed state, as depicted in Arbeitspause, repeats itself—now in a tense state and an entirely new context—in two drawings in red chalk from 1953: Verladung (Loading) and Veredelung des Erdöls (Refining Oil). The former features a port with a crane and a ship in the background onto which a boiler is being loaded; in the foreground to the left are two workers, to the right boxes, sacks, and the suggestion of rails. The rear view of the first worker captures the weightiness and dynamics of the loading activity by placing the stooped figure in the foreground of the picture, his arms bent so far toward his back that the right elbow seems to symbolically strengthen the pulling forces being exerted on the boiler. However, this very accomplished study of a body deviates from the more illustrative background, captured with a thinner line, and the second worker, whose profile is visible and who is watching what is happening wide-eyed. The second drawing, Veredelung des Erdöls, again includes the rear view of the figure of a worker in the foreground. Unlike the suggested assembly situation with additional workers, artistic focus has been placed on elaborating his anatomy.
The motifs of technology and industrial plants seem schematic and fragmented in both drawings. It is the worker who dominates the scene and becomes the message in terms of content. His physical power and condition are the foundation for the processes taking place in the background. In 1963 Baumgarte again takes up facets of physical labor and shows them directly in action, for example in the ink drawing Gießerei (Foundry). However, unlike the drawings from 1953, the artist gives the founder a face, transfers him from being a symbol of labor power into a dynamic setting. Baumgarte furthermore fits fragments of technology and exterior space into one another that are done in black ink. By contrast, the workers stand out in red-brown by being brought to life and apparently “merging” with the hot casting boiler.
Reminiscent of movie storyboards in terms of its composition, the drawing is the highlight of the Arbeitswelten—it paves the way, so to speak, to a synthesis somewhere between academic, realistic figure drawing and the abstracting concept of space in contemporary modern art. In addition, as is the case for the drawings Der Ruf (The Call) or Schweißer (Welders), also created in 1963, what manifests in Gießerei are recourses to artistic techniques of the political, critical art in Germany of the 1920s and ‘30s, chiefly principles of bringing together fragmented elements, such as in works by Jean Heartfield or Hanna Höch. Baumgarte can also use her experience as a former illustrator for the Kaskeline animated film studio for alienating, focusing, and irritating visual habits, which had previously not been used anywhere as formal innovations in industrial paintings or depictions of workers.
In contrast to these works, which also aim at dynamism, Ruth Baumgarte also devoted herself to calm elements, in particular in her sketchy recording of technical details that she captured in the mid-1950s in a sketchbook and in turn combined with depictions of occupations or activities associated with machines. This attention detail implies her having a high degree of interest in the subject.
While in 1954 Baumgarte only cautiously, almost schematically worded, approached the worker in her depictions of occupations, as she came to be familiar with individual protagonists she subsequently combined the sovereignly typical with the individual. However, at first the focus was on the sketchy exploration of technology, which in 1956 she managed to combine as the artistic outcome of her own experience with figures, space, and technology, for instance in the ink drawing Strahlungs- / Eckrohrkessel in der Montage (Mounting the Radiant/Corner Tube Boiler). Ten years later, in 1967, the cycle of industrial working worlds brilliantly concludes with depictions of workers on darkly colored cardboard, which simultaneously defines the spatial dimension and the spatial atmosphere. Details of Schweißer, Bohrer (Driller), Fräser (Milling Machine Operator), Kranführer (Crane Operator), and Konstrukteur (Draftsman) are depicted absorbed in their work, contrasted through the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow. The use of prominent primary colors on very dark cardboard is reminiscent of principles of Pop Art, whereby these are in turn broken by means of the sketchy reproduction of technology quotes or fragments. Yet at the same time, like in Pop Art, the colors primarily stand for a feeling; they diverge form and function, become a message of recurring pictorial elements: blue, which characterizes the work clothing, dominates, although it also almost completely embraces both the individual and the working environment as well, such as in Konstrukteur. The faces are red and correspond, as in Fräser, with the shades of red in the background. The color transports the heat and the fire in ironworking. In addition to their black contours, details of metal and iron are accentuated with yellow, where in the work UP-Innenschweißarbeit (Internal Arc Welding Work) face and hands contrast the yellow with the red background. Here, color says it all and is the condensate of the wide-ranging color palette that Baumgarte uses beginning in 1959 for the Arbeitswelten.
She still continued to cautiously introduce the three primary colors mentioned above into pictures produced with the mixed media of graphic art and painting on views into factory halls, storage areas, as well as construction sites. By means of endless alignments into space, whether in Der Morgen, Lager der Kesselbau-Werkstoffe (Boiler Manufacturing Material Storeroom), or in Wir bauen unsere Produktion aus (We Are Expanding Our Production), the artist captures intermeshing scenes atmospherically: in Lager der Kesselbau-Werkstoffe, it begins with an energetic worker with a dynamic pointing gesture in front of a storage area with bridge structures. In various perspectives, the artists opens up the industry halls, and the closer she records the space, the technology, the more the workers shift into the background as accessories. Industrial beauty is postulated here, as in a peep box, that directs the viewer’s gaze into an open space—occasionally frontally or in a wide-angle format with a marked 3D effect, as in Lager der Kesselbau-Werkstoffe, where the pipes seem to protrude out of the picture.
Despite everything, the facilities are not carefully and clearly structured, and neither do they make any claim to documentary realism, as is the case for representatives of Positivism around 1920, such as Otto Bollhagen;[xv] rather, Baumgarte abstracts operative reality (see In der Gießerei from 1958) to the perception of form, color, and in isolated cases light and the interaction of movements between technology and work as well.
In 1962 she again took up the view into factory halls for the purpose of now defining them entirely by means of areas of color and form.
The watercolors from 1962 are unparalleled; they now completely reveal that artist’s talent for color. In In der Handformerei (In the Hand Molding Workshop), she groups equipment, boiler, and architectural details in radiant colors. In Schichtwechsel (Change of Shifts) she places accents in striking gradations of blue into a picture otherwise dominated by secondary colors. In Im Kesselbau (In the Boiler Manufacturing Plant) she dispenses almost entirely with accessory workers and focuses the boilers in the center of the picture with contrasts of red and blue. The suggested columns, struts, wires, and pipes permeate the sheet like a network and only develop spatial depth by way of the boiler that pervades the space.
She time and again takes up the concentration on red and blue in the subsequent Arbeitswelten, particularly intensely in the consolidation of vertical-format scenes from 1964. Here, the focus is again on the workers, but they merge with the areas of color and form that tend toward the abstract (see In den Vorstädten [In the Suburbs] and Schiffsverladung [Loading the Ship]), which occasionally completely dissolve the space. What is only at the first moment an aggressive, loud palette is melodious; its blazing up lends the workers life, which is heightened once more in color contrast.
In this very painterly series, the artist allows a direct reference to the Baumgarte company by summoning the main industrial building with its prominent smokestack and staggered façade into the color and architectural collage in the foreground in her painting Industrialle Weltstadt (Industrial Metropolis). The overall painting remains harmonious despite the contrast of warm and cool colors and the use of a wide variety of formal elements. Red, blue, as well as yellow and green brushstrokes add up to become bodies, buildings and landscape, boilers and machines. In contrast to the precisely contouring and defining dark outlines, as were still prevalent in 1959, for example, the contrasting and interstructured areas of color occasionally dissolve the physicality of the figures. Painting’s message clearly takes precedence over a representational and symbolic meaning where the color organization of the pictorial space receives particular attention.
The artistically elevated solving of the theme “working worlds” in the last-mentioned pictures can hardly be aligned with the hitherto documentary accounts of labor in Baumgarte’s works. Reconstruction seems completed, and outward expansion has begun. In 1967, shortly before the political upheaval in the Federal Republic, the artist distances herself from this very theme, only to in a sense erect a memorial to the worker, now isolated from the Baumgarte industrial hall; however, it has become extremely dark. The series can be interpreted as presaging transformed working processes to the extent that advanced organization and technologization are in the preliminary stage of their being supplanted. Baumgarte is not the only one to respond to this incipient substitution; in particular in the 1970s, artists such as Renate Pallmann, Doris Lenkeit, or Hans Joachim Schreiber made various attempts at rendering their notion of the reality of the advanced technologization of production processes in paintings.[xvi]
As shown, Ruth Baumgarte’s Arbeitswelten are a discovery and an enrichment for the art history of the worker and industrial painting. What is remarkable is the imagery she uses in the context of a situation that is always interested in the worker and situates him in the process of industrial reconstruction and expansion. Her stance, as the wife of an entrepreneur and as an artist who rarely argued artistically in favor of her own privileges and those of her husband, is the expression of a strong artist personality who did not cater to the entrepreneur, nor did she, as in East Germany, assign a solemn memorial image to an alleged working class, but she pointed out relationships and contradictions. The processes of artistic self-innovation and self-modernization ensconced therein, which pass over into subsequent cycles of works, in particular into her Africa paintings,[xvii] testify to unrestrained vigor as well as to the struggles associated with an individual, artistic, and private existence.
[i] See Klaus Türk, Bilder der Arbeit (Wiesbaden, 2000). The iconographic anthology assembled by Klaus Türk is the first survey of the theme of work, with a focus on various work-related subjects and spaces under sociological aspects. The appendix of the richly illustrated book lists all of the relevant exhibitions from 1912 onward, and it includes differentiated references.
[ii] Cf. Industrie und Technik in der deutschen Malerei, ed. Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum Duisburg (Duisburg, 1969), p. 61.
[iii] For example in 1912 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Krupp. Cf. Krupp 1812–1912: Zum 100jährigen Bestehen der Firma Krupp und der Gussstahlfabrik zu Essen Herausgegeben auf den hundertsten Geburtstag Alfred Krupps (Jena, 1912).
[iv] Cf. Kunstausstellung Eisen und Stahl, with a preface by Federal President Theodor Heuss, exh. cat. Museum Kunstpalast im Ehrenhof (Düsseldorf, 1952).
[v] The industrial potential in the western zones proved to be indispensible for the reconstruction of Europe. The western Allies tied the West German economy into a European context, above all in the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950, which regulated relationships in heavy industry. Cf. Lutz Engelskirchen, “Eisen und Stahl,” in Die zweite Schöpfung: Bilder der industriellen Welt vom 18. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, exh. cat. Deutsches Historisches Museum, ed. Sabine Beneke and Hans Ottomeyer (Berlin, 2002), pp. 105–13.
[vi] Ibid., p. 111.
[vii] Cf. exhibition review “Industrie: Ein roter Klecks,” Der Spiegel, no. 19 (1952). www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-21976794.html (accessed on June 25, 2015). [viii] For a comparison see Industriebilder aus Westfalen, exh. cat Westfälisches Landesmuseum (Münster, 1979).
[ix] Cf. Türk 2000 (see note 1), p. 329.
[x] Rolf E. Straub, “Kurt Wehlte als Kunsttechnologe,” in Akademie-Mitteilungen 6: Staatliche Akademie der bildenden Künste Stuttgart, ed. Wolfgang Kermer (Stuttgart, 1975), pp. 4–7.
[xi] All of the biographical information stems from the archives of the Art Foundation Ruth Baumgarte. [xii] Cf. pp. 123ff in this volume: Überblickswerke.
[xiii] Cf. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Oxford, 1986), p. 24.
[xiv] Cf. Türk 2000 (see note 1), pp. 115–25. [xv] Cf. exh. cat. Otto Bollhagen: Ein Maler im Dienste der Industrie, Bayer AG (Leverkusen, 1988) as well as inv. cat. Bilder der Technik, Industrie und Wissenschaft: Ein Bestandskatalog des Deutschen Museums, ed. Eva A. Mayring (Munich, 2008), p.197, cat. no. 285.
[xvi] Cf. Türk 2000 (see note 1), pp. 336–43. [xvii] Cf. Ruth Baumgarte, Hommage zum 90. Geburtstag: Wichtige Werke aus sieben Jahrzehnten, ed. Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie (Bielefeld, 2013).