Baumgarte Products Are Sent Around the World (Loading), 1953

Baumgarte Products Are Sent Around the World (Loading), 1953
Red Chalk, India ink, and gouache on cream-colored cardboard, 27,5 x 35,3 cm

Ruth Baumgarte produced this drawing as the design for the January page of a calendar commissioned by Eisenwerke Baumgarte Ironworks that was to appear each year from 1953. It shows a port with a crane and a ship in the background onto which a boiler is being loaded. In the left of the foreground are two workers, and on the right, we can see crates, sacks and the end of a railway track. Our view of the bare back of the first worker impressively captures the difficulty and scale of the loading effort. He is bending right into the picture, drawing our eyes to the boiler that is hanging from the crane. The man is actually hardly visible: his hands and arms, bent right back, appear symbolically to increase the forces exerted on the boiler. The worker's pose also draws the observer into the heart of the action.

This image is a far cry from the documentary realism of the black-and-white photographs of machinery that are featured in the same calendar. Baumgarte skilfully demonstrates how reducing the image to just a few key elements – a worker's back, a worker's head and a small selection of other items – and only three colours can heighten intensity of the scene, thereby paying artistic homage to the men's heavy labour.