Biography with historical pictorial Documents


Ruth Kellner in her carriage, 1925

Ruth Johanna Kellner is born in Coburg on June 27 into a family of actors. Her parents are Kurt Rupli, theater director and later UFA production manager, and the actress Margarethe Kellner-Conrady.


Ruth Kellner as a schoolgirl, around 1930

The family moves to Berlin-Karlshorst in 1935.

Student at the Karlshorst Lyceum (from 1938 on at the Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach School). She graduates and obtains her “Einjährige” (secondary school leaving certificate).

In 1939, Ruth and her mother move to Rheingoldstrasse 32 in Berlin-Karlshorst, where she often meets her aunt and Dieter, her aunt’s foster son.

Attends Emmy Stalmann’s Private Kunstschule des Westens (Private Art School of the West) at Kantstrasse 154 A in Berlin-Charlottenburg from 1939 to 1941.

Hans Scholz has been teaching at the art school since 1937 as the successor to Gerhard Ulrich. Ruth enjoys a long friendship with him. His novel Am grünen Strand der Spree (On the Green Beach of the Spree), published in 1955, becomes a best seller and is filmed in 1960.




Lessons with Gerhard Ulrich at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, 1943

Begins to study painting and free graphic art at the Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Berlin (until 1944) under professors Gerhard Ulrich, Kurt Wehlte, Wilhelm Tank, Hermann Franke, and Carl Michel. During her studies, she creates nude and portrait drawings, as well as images with worker motifs and her first illustrations. Observes deportations during the war years of people persecuted by the Nazi dictatorship.

During her studies, she works in the animation studios of Wolfgang Kaskeline from 1941 to 1944. The so-called “Walt Disney of Germany” is the only Jewish director still working in Germany at that time. More Information


Gypsies in the Rain, 1942
Chalk on paper, 48 x 37,8 cm

Presumably meets Sinti and Roma in the Wiesengrund allotment gardens in Karlshorst. Creates the work Zigeuner im Regen (Gypsies in the Rain). The forced labor camp for Sinti and Roma in Berlin-Marzahn is located near Karlshorst. In 1943, people were deported from here to Auschwitz and murdered there.

She meets Florian Breuer (a student of Max Kaus) at the academy and remains in contact with him for decades. He teaches her watercolor painting and strongly influences her work.


Ruth Busse working for the Reich Labor Service, 1943

Spends the summer of 1943 cutting peat with the Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labor Service) near Lauenburg, Pomerania (today: Lębork, Poland). She later describes this time as “extremely enriching.”

Marries Eduard Alfred Gustav Busse (1914–2003), a fellow student from Bielefeld, who must return to the front immediately after the wedding.


As a student in Sonneberg, 1944

As a result of the evacuation of the State Academy in Berlin, she transfers for five months to the Staatliche Industrie- und Kunstgewerbeschule (State Vocational School of Arts and Crafts) in Sonnenberg, Thuringia.

Applies for admission to the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Staatliche Kunsthochschule (State Academy of Art) in Dresden. Because only war-disabled people are to be admitted, her application is rejected and she returns to Berlin.


Studio Corner (At Night), 1945
Watercolor and India ink on cream-colored Ingres Paper, washed, 45,2 x 30,7 cm

On February 3, she experiences the worst air raid on Berlin. On May 8, Germany surrenders. Berlin-Karlshorst is declared a restricted area by the Soviet army. She has only a few hours to rescue some of her work from the apartment at Rheingoldstrasse 32. She moves to Berlin-Lichtenrade and works briefly as a press illustrator for the Berliner Zeitung, which is published by the Soviet occupying forces.

 In Lichtenrade, she takes over the management of a youth center (later the Lortzingclub) founded by the Soviet occupying forces. In July, she begins working as a drawing teacher at the Ulrich von Hutten Gymnasium in Lichtenrade.

She creates her first watercolors, including portraits of boys and Atelierecke (Abends) [Studio Corner (Evening).


Ruth Busse, 1946


Moves to Bielefeld in early 1946 and becomes the sole provider for her family, who later join her in Bielefeld. She nonetheless commutes regularly to Berlin.

The marriage with Eduard Busse ends in divorce.




Hans Wintrath and Ruth Busse, around 1950

Birth of her son Thomas Christian Busse

Launch of her career as an illustrator, commercial graphic designer, and independent painter. She creates illustrations for newspapers and magazines, such as the Freie Presse (1949– 1953) and Magazin der Hausfrau (1949–1954). She designs a number of books for children and young people, as well as works of fiction, including books by Alfred Döblin and Oscar Wilde.

Her first participation in a public exhibition, with ink drawings, is Deutsches Buchschaffen (German Book Design) in Bielefeld. She joins the Landesberufsverband Bildender Künstler Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalian Association of Professional Visual Artists) and takes part in numerous group exhibitions through 1952.




Ruth Busse with Hans Baumgarte at Lake Constance, around 1950

In 1947 and 1948, she is strongly involved in the cultural and theater scenes. The actor Hans Wintrath becomes a close friend and later a friend of the Baumgarte family.

Meets the entrepreneur Hans Baumgarte at an exhibition of portraits of children and portrays his two sons from his first marriage.

In 1950, she designs the cover for the opening brochure of the Apollo theater in Düsseldorf, which is managed by her father on behalf of the UFA.

Several trips to Lake Constance with Hans Baumgarte in the years 1950 to 1953.


At the North Sea, 1951

Marries the industrialist Hans Baumgarte (1917–1999). They have two children, Janine and Alexander. The patchwork family includes his sons from his first marriage: Ernst-August and Hans-Hermann.

A period of intensive travel begins, including trips across Europe, and tours through Spain and Italy lasting several weeks each. Numerous stays in many international cities, frequently also in Berlin.

Creates travel pictures, such as the watercolors Finnische Impressionen (Finnish Impressions, 1952), Blick auf den Vesuv (View of Vesuvius, 1955), and Istanbul (1960).

Commissioned by the Baumgarte Ironworks, she creates calendar illustrations (until 1967) that lead to the cycle Fabrikwelten (Factory Worlds), realized with Werner Kuhnert, a graphic artist friend from Bielefeld.

Further commissions follow, including from the Dr. Oetker company in Bielefeld.


Ruth Baumgarte with her dog Nauke, 1956

For social reasons, her husband forbids her to do any illustration work for the politically leftist Freie Presse.

Creates numerous portraits, still lifes, and theater motifs in the years 1954 until 1961.

Participates in her first international exhibitions: Galeria Machico, Estoril, Portugal (1954), Galleries Dr. Khalili, Tehran, Iran (1957), and Circolo Nautico, Alassio, Italy (1961).

Annual sojourns on the island of Sylt from the mid-1950s on. Between 1957 and 1959, first trip to South Africa (Johannesburg) and Egypt.


Ruth Baumgarte in Egypt, near the Pyramids of Giza, around 1960

Around 1960, trips to Iran, including Tehran, Ishafan, and the Caspian Sea.

In 1966/67, she comes into contact with the cultural scene in Prague due to the work cycle Fabrikwelten. She is offered a teaching position at the Academy of Arts in Prague.

The couple plan to separate. Ruth Baumgarte considers moving to Munich.

From 1970 on, her works reveal a social awareness of social and environmental issues – for example in the works Meditation (1975) and Später Winter (Late Winter, 1975).


Ruth Baumgarte in her studio, late 1960s

In-depth travels to the Pyrenees and preoccupation with the regions burdened by the Spanish Civil War (Portbou and Empordà), which had already influenced Alma Mahler- Werfel, Walter Benjamin, and Lion Feuchtwanger during their flight from the National Socialists.

Starting with the Spanish sketchbook, she creates drawings and paintings on the Spanische Legende (Spanish Legend) and for the series A la recherche du temps perdu.

1974: Solo exhibition at the Galerie Chamoizzi, Lyon, France.


Ruth Baumgarte in her gallery,
Das Fenster, around 1975

Joins the Bundesverband Bildender Künstler Ostwestfalen - Lippe (Federal Association of Visual Artists East Westphalia- Lippe). Participates in many of its exhibitions until 1985.

In 1975, she founds the gallery Das Fenster in Bielefeld – which she manages until 1982 – in the process also promoting the regional art scene.

The former head of the features section of the newspaper Neue Westfälische, Martin Bodenstein, writes in his book Mime, Maler und Mimosen (Actor, Painter, Mimosa): Das Fenster had a tiny sitting area for enthusiasts who did not value art comfort, but rather comfortable art and, on top of that, conversation with its creators. With her legendary gallery, Ruth Baumgarte ‘pushed opened the bull’s-eye pane windows of the province'.


Ruth Baumgarte in her studio, 1980s

From 1980 on, she makes annual visits of several months each in Africa, parallel journeys through Europe, and frequently to Spain. Undertakes an artistic examination of social and political changes, including the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl in 1986.

Beginning of the Africa Cycle, which comprises roughly 100 works through 2011. The cycle deals with the societal and sociopolitical upheavals of the African continent.


Visit to the Maasai, 1995

Becomes a member of the Lippish Artists' Association

Beginning in 1985, she reflects, in her milieu studies, on the fields of tension between the individual and society, humankind and nature.

Since 1986 the eight-part drawing series Nichtseßhaft (Vagrant, 1986) have been created. 

Is among those responsible for the founding of the Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie, Bielefeld, in 1986.

Establishes contacts with the state art trade in the GDR and the East German art scene. Gerhard Kettner, rector of the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts) in Dresden, offers her a teaching position.


Ruth Baumgarte in Kenya, 1995

From 1990 on, has friendly ties to the renowned New York art dealer Gene Aberbach and his wife, Susan.

From 1992 on, intensive international exhibition activity, including Ladengalerie, Berlin (1991), Frost & Reed Ltd., London (1992), G. W. Einstein Company Inc., New York (1993), Galleria Giulia di Roma, Rome (1994), Stichting Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium (1996), and Galleria Marieschi di Monza, Monza (1997).

Creates the multipart work series African Landscapes, as well as the works Wanting to Build a House (1994), A Man without Livestock Isn’t a Man (1994, and His Land (1997.

First presentation of the Africa images at the Kunstverein Paderborn in 1993.

1995–1997, creates the monumental triptych The Stream of Time.

Trips to Spain (Ibiza), where she also meets the ZERO artist Heinz Mack.

1999: Death of Hans Baumgarte.


Ruth Baumgarte with Susan Aberbach and Alexander Baumgarte, New York 2001

From 2000 on, travels to Africa, Italy, Spain (Ibiza), the USA, and Great Britain.

2000: Solo exhibition Visiones Africanas, Sala Pelaires Galeria d’Art, Palma de Mallorca.

2001: Solo exhibition African Visions, Susan Aberbach Fine Art, Fuller Building, New York.

2002: Solo exhibition, Galerie Schloss Mochental, Ehingen.

2004: Solo exhibition, Galleria Marieschi di Milano, Milan.


Ruth Baumgarte and the actress Gisela Uhlen at an exhibition opening in Bielefeld, 2005

2011: Last Selbstbildnis (Self- Portrait, unfinished). The last work in the Africa Cycle, Afrikanische Komposition (African Composition), also remains unfinished.

2012: Establishment of the Ruth Baumgarte Art Foundation.

Ruth Baumgarte dies in Bielefeld on February 7, 2013.