On the River Bank, 1987
The large-format work on paper shows the intimate portrait of a woman. Her muscular figure hints at her heavy everyday work; next to her, there is a basket filled with tableware. In the background of this atmospheric river landscape, a boatman drives past; on the opposite riverbank, the skyline of a modern city hazily emerges. Yet, the woman does not pay attention to her surroundings; she sits by the river, sunk in thoughts, the water reflecting her silhouette’s colours in its own, muted green-violet colouring.
Before fully changing to painting in oils when working on her Africa cycle, Ruth Baumgarte created a series of works containing large-format coal and pastel drawings as well as watercolours during the 1980s, to which this work also belongs. In her paper works, she characterises the different roles of women in African societies, who were mainly centred around the house and home as well as food preparation. The women in her works appear as gleaners, net makers or while collecting wood and corncobs. What is striking, however, is the way in which some works portray the women in contemplative situations, too; one example being the huddled up, meditative, and thoughtful pose of the woman in this watercolour. Thus, the women Ruth Baumgarte portrays are not only shown as being part of a strictly controlled social community but also as self-determined, emancipated individuals who claim their own place of living and thinking.