Fair in April, 1953

Fair in April, 1953
Watercolour on paper, 30 x 39 cm

"Kirmes" – the fair – is a magical word, and not just for children. The smell of waffles, roasted almonds and candy floss; the sparkling lights, the music and the booming voices of the showmen: the fair is a place for fun, friends and excitement. And it appeals to all the senses. Fairgrounds have always been a meeting place for all generations, and artists have been depicting the hustle and bustle of the fair since the 17th century.

In Bielefeld, the "Kirmes" was held once a year on Kesselbrink square, near where Ruth Baumgarte lived in the late 1940s. In April 1953, she painted the event in two watercolours with different titles and slightly different moods. Baumgarte only rarely repeated the same motifs in her work. A closer look at the two images here reveals certain differences.

In Jahrmarkt im April, the fairground is cold and almost lifeless. Caravans, stalls, the big wheel, the carousel and trailers are spread across the picture in an overlapping patchwork. There are only a few people: a child and a dog at the bottom of the image, and on the other side a couple pushing something on wheels. This group of people also appears in other compositions by Ruth Baumgarte. Kirmes features no people at all. There is no trace of spring in either picture: it can be very cold in April, indeed it can still snow. The tall and entirely bare tree in the centre of the picture indicates that nature is really still in winter.

Kermis in April, 1953

Kermis in April, 1953
Watercolour, chalk and pencil on cream-colored cardboard, 36,5 x 29,5 cm

Although the subject of each picture is the same, the paintings are very different: Jahrmarkt im April (Fair in April) is less defined and appears softer, if also cooler. Here, Ruth Baumgarte has worked with a lot of water and allowed the paint to run; this is particularly striking in the sky. Dryer paint in Kirmes im April (Kermis in April) and the cream card on which it is painted make for a sharper, stronger image.

What the two pictures have in common is the simple, humble nature of the subject. This "Jahrmarkt" (Fair) is not comparable with the fun fairs of today. Things were slow to pick up after the Second World War. This image can therefore also be seen as a fascinating contribution to the post-war history of Bielefeld.