Miss M., 1946

Miss M., 1946
Pastel chalk on paper, 54,8 x 34,5 cm

People and their faces fascinated Ruth Baumgarte throughout her life. Even as a student, she produced numerous portraits and caught the mood of the time through her subjects' posture and the way they held their heads. "A piece of new life blooming in the ruins. A tiny flower with a grotesque stem growing out of the ashes that makes us smile with its steadfastness, and that comforts us." That was how the Zeit newspaper described the need for beauty in the post-war period in its issue of 11 April 1946. It is in this period that Ruth Baumgarte draws a "Fräulein", one of her earliest surviving pastel works from 1946. The 55 cm portrait also reveals her second great artistic passion: colour.

The head and shoulders of a young woman with grey-blue eyes emerge from the page as if by magic. Her outfit is unusual for the post-war years: she is not wearing the usual beret or felt hat, but an elegant creation of fur, silk and flowers that adorns rather than protects her head. Feathery and lightly painted sections in tones from rust red to yellow bring the delicate materials to life. Just a few sparse brushstrokes over the bright red cheeks and slightly opened lips create the impression of a thin veil.

The young woman in all her finery resembles a tempting, beautifully scented flower. Yet her direct gaze and the firm set to her chin indicate that she is well aware of the impact of her femininity. This portrait of the anonymous Fräulein M. is Ruth Baumgarte's homage to all women fending for themselves in the difficult period of upheaval after 1945.