Life, around 1949
Leben (Life) is an ink and watercolour piece in which the artist grapples with her existence in the immediate aftermath of the war, when she was working to support several people in one cramped household.
The unusual composition is surprising: a wide range of different figures surround the centre of the piece, which is occupied by an oversized drawing of a young woman. The woman is leaning on her elbow and looking thoughtfully to the side while the incessant carousel of figures turns around her. This "wheel of life" shows the modern woman in roles that she now has to fulfil simultaneously: caring for the sick, serving, ironing, planting the garden, dancing, being a mother and – something that was not yet widely accepted for women – driving a car. At the bottom right, the artist has depicted herself at her desk with a pen, ink and paper.
Ruth Baumgarte started her career as a freelance artist and popular illustrator for magazines and books around 1949. Her sharply perceptive work honours the many tasks facing women in the modern era at a time before female emancipation and the women's movement.