Ruth Baumgarte. Origin – Imprinting – Caesuras

Kulturhaus Karlshorst, District Office Berlin-Lichtenberg, 4th November 2017 – 7th January 2018

M. Fenner: Ruth Baumgarte. Herkunft Prägung Zäsuren (Origin – Imprinting – Caesuras), district office Berlin-Lichtenberg, 2017

The district office of Berlin-Lichtenberg presents a cultural-historic exhibition on the artist Ruth Baumgarte (1923−2013) at the Kulturhaus Karlshorst from 4th November 2017 until 7th January 2018. With Karlshorst being the neighbourhood Ruth Baumgarte grew up in, the exhibition’s historical documents, artistic works, and photographs from the early years of the artist – from her birth until 1946 – are shown at their “original location”, so to speak.

Titled Ruth Baumgarte. Origin – Imprinting – Caesuras the exhibition at the Kulturhaus Karlshorst examines the life of the pupil and art student Ruth Baumgarte from 1923 until 1946 – thus covering a time span that reaches from her birth at the time of the Weimar Republic to National Socialism and World War II up to the early post-war years.

Ruth Baumgarte, born in Coburg in 1923, grew up as the daughter of the actress Margarethe Kellner-Conrady and the actor, director, and later head of UFA Kurt Rupli in Berlin and from 1935 onwards in Berlin-Karlshorst. From 1941 until 1944, she studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) and directly experienced the war and, later, the Battle of Berlin. Following the erection of the Soviet restricted zone in Karlshorst and the resulting forced eviction of residents, she had to leave the familiar neighbourhood and relocate to Berlin-Lichtenrade. Due to her marriage with her Bielefeld-born fellow student and artist Eduard Busse, she moved to Bielefeld in 1946, where she built her career as a freelance painter and graphic artist.

Always committed to representationalism, she developed an extensive, versatile, and colour intense oeuvre, which was shaped by her socio-political reflections as well as, later, her many journeys especially to the African continent. Her works were presented at renowned international as well as national galleries and institutions. Ruth Baumgarte died in February 2013.

Film accompanying the exhibition „Ruth Baumgarte. Origin – Imprinting – Caesuras”

The Karlshorst exhibition grasps the interaction of Baumgarte’s artistic development and biographical experience, especially during the defining years of her early childhood and youth. Based on personal documents, artistic works, and informative historic documents, the exhibition focusses on the immediate personal environment of the artist with special regards to parental, cultural, social, and political experiences that acted as a catalyst for the artist’s personal as well as artistic growth.

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

So, for example, the work Gypsies in the Rain (1942), which was created outside the Academy, underlines Baumgarte’s rejective political stance toward the deportation and suspected extermination of the Sinti and Roma under the Third Reich’s dictatorship. Furthermore, the exhibition illustrates how the artist – in times of mental control by the Nazi regime as well as material limitations – found ways of coping with her feelings and expressing her artistic urge in poems and diary entries.

Structured into five chronological conceptual themes (origin, childhood/artistic support, education, war, and post-war years), the exhibition follows the question of the sources of Ruth Baumgarte’s art, her strong humanist world view, and her personal fascination for the people around her. The exhibition specifically poses the questions of what and who were the young artist’s influences as well as role models, and where and how did she find ways to access her creativity and her very own artistic expression.

The exhibition was curated by Weimar art historian Dr. Sandra Mühlenberend. The graphic and audio-visual concept was developed by Tim Jolas, Berlin. The exhibition is accompanied by a high-quality, 160-page print publication.

In October 2020, Ruth Baumgarte was honoured with a memorial stele in Berlin-Karlshorst. The stele was erected close to Rheingoldstraße 32, a place where Ruth Baumgarte, together with her mother, lived during her years of study at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) (1939-1945) up until the final battles of the Soviet troops entering Berlin-Karlshorst. Among her friends and family, Ruth Baumgarte, too, experienced the political and racial persecution and consequential repressive measures of the Nazi regime. This way, her awareness for Sinti and Roma families living in Berlin-Karlshorst was sharpened, and she began portraying families fleeing from the Genocide in her works, against all political directives.

Online Exhibition Catalogue

© Exhibition photographs by Isabel Latza