Morning (Going to Work), 1958
Truncated close-up figures, a vanishing point that gives depth to the image and contrasts between light and shade: artistic devices used by Ruth Baumgarte to create an electrifying atmosphere whilst capturing and holding the observer's attention.
This image could be a storyboard for a neorealist film signalling a new creative era in the late 1940s along with Fellini and Visconti. Like the Italian avant-garde film movement, Ruth Baumgarte dug deep into social reality for this gripping morning street scene. Men in dark work clothes are walking towards us. Their faces seem withdrawn and tired. A worker in a thick coat, scarf and peaked cap comes so close to the edge of the picture that you can even see the glow of his cigarette. The surrounding scene of the busy street, passers-by and rubbish bins on the pavement is only sketched in, and the artist intentionally leaves patches of the light paper visible. This gives the work an enduring and changing narrative force: those patches spark our imagination and encourage us to continue for ourselves the story of the figures we see – a story that the artist has merely suggested.