Change of Shifts (Workplace), 1961

Change of Shifts (Workplace), 1961
Watercolour, gouache, and pencil on cream-colored paper, 21,6 x 28,3 cm; Template for the April sheet of the Eisenwerk Baumgarte calendar from 1962

An insight into industry

The factory gates are open. In a scene defined by rapid change and movement, we can see the workers coming and going at the change of shift. The depiction of the bright and uncluttered workshop demonstrates the artist's knowledge of the functional context. Railway tracks run at an angle onto the page and draw our eye to the background, adding depth to the scene. Just inside the gates on the right is the product of industrial labour: the boiler with which the Eisenwerke Baumgarte ironworks were enjoying global business success. The production process is still underway. The light, bright colours of Baumgarte's watercolour technique present the factory in a positive way.

Between us and the entrance in the right half of the picture, a man is bent forward. The figure is not complete and it is not entirely clear what he is doing. Probably, the aim is to depict the heavy manual labour that took place in these large workshops, which were not yet automated.

Interestingly, Ruth Baumgarte shows indistinct figures rather than individuals, emphasising the anonymity of work in industry. It is not the individual that counts, but the shared, common whole of Eisenwerke Baumgarte that is key to the functioning of the business.