Industrial Metropolis, 1964

Industrial Metropolis, 1964
Watercolour and pencil on ivory-colored paper, 30 x 21 cm

This piece is one of six watercolours that were originally intended for the 1965 Eisenwerke Baumgarte calendar but were not used. A combination of bright colours, dense composition and specific details set the works apart from the other pages of the calendar.

Modern high-rise buildings, churches and factory smokestacks fill the page from the bottom edge of the picture almost to the horizon. A chimney cuts through the centre of the image. Greeny-blue in colour, it appears to replace the tree whose bare branches reach up from the bottom of the picture. The city has pushed out nature almost entirely; all that remains is barren boughs that are powerless in the face of the growth-hungry metropolis.

With this motif from 1964, Ruth Baumgarte is demonstrating the consequences of reckless urbanisation and indicating the long-term implications for nature and the environment. It was not until the 1970s that society began to engage more widely with environmental issues and respond to the wake-up call of the Club of Rome (founded in 1968), whose 1972 report on the "Limits to Growth" warned of the collapse of the Earth's ecosystems, the growth of the global population and the uncontrolled consumption of valuable resources.