Gypsies in the Rain, 1942
The 1942 drawing Zigeuner im Regen is an early masterpiece from Ruth Baumgarte's student days. She demonstrates the full breadth of her expertise with twisting and foreshortened figures, skilful shading and complex composition.
Ruth Baumgarte's early work from the 1940s, unlike that of many of her contemporaries, addresses without compromise the atrocities being committed against her fellow human beings. A particular focus is on the Sinti and Roma and Germany's "lost generation".
Baumgarte once lived and is now commemorated in Berlin-Karlshorst, close to the sites of the Wiesengrund allotments. In the 1940s, Wiesengrund was home to a Sinti and Roma settlement and not far from the Berlin-Marzahn "gypsy" internment camp. The young artist maintained her ties with and sympathies for the Sinti and Roma community despite ever harsher restrictions. Some of Baumgarte's works, which she was only able to remove from post-war Berlin with special authorisation, tell of expulsion and persecution. One such drawing is Zigeuner im Regen from 1942.
It depicts two musicians fleeing through the rain from a threat not quite visible in the picture. The train tracks and overlooking buildings of the old Berlin-Wuhlheide station, one of the last staging posts for deportation, are an ominous sign of the genocide that had already begun. Ruth Baumgarte's Berlin-Karlshorst works come from a time of persecution and repression, when the "gypsy" internment camp in Berlin-Marzahn was already in operation. The young artist became an acute observer of her environment and did not shrink from forbidden or uncomfortable truths: she dedicated her artistic output to people's lived reality.