Self-Portrait with Cap, 1945
This self-portrait was created in 1945 at a time when the 22-year-old Baumgarte was experiencing the worst period of her life: constant bombing and the destruction of Berlin; the occupation of Karlshorst by Russian troops; being forced to leave Karlshorst, and uncertainty surrounding the fate of her husband. She moved with her mother to Berlin-Lichtenrade and briefly worked there as a press artist for the Berliner Zeitung, which was being published under Soviet occupation.
She got to know a Russian officer who offered her and her mother a degree of protection. In return, Ruth Baumgarte attended Communist training – and this is reflected in the self-portrait: she is wearing the beret and red necktie of a Red Army soldier.
The watercolour work on the section around the face is highly detailed, whereas the jacket and straps are more of an outline. Baumgarte looks past the observer but her gaze still draws you in. It is hard to interpret her expression, which is somewhere between self-confidence and subtle uncertainty. Red lips and the bright red scarf catch the eye.
Because of her relationship with the Russian officer, Baumgarte was able to obtain a pass in early May and return to the exclusion zone in Karlshorst for a few hours to retrieve her personal belongings and art from the house in Rheingoldstraße. She was thus able to save some of her earlier works.