Self-Portrait (...at the door), 1979

Self-Portrait (...at the door), 1979
Bister and chalk on paper, 40 x 38 cm

Ruth Baumgarte depicts herself here in a confident pose. She is 56 years old, a successful artist and the director of the Das Fenster gallery. She manages a patchwork family with five children and a large house, and travels regularly and extensively. Yet she has also lost close relatives, and her marriage with Hans Baumgarte is facing serious challenges.

The masterful watercolour in bistre and chalk shows a woman who has found her place in life and knows what she wants. Her left hand holds the door frame and her right is raised as if in salutation, although we can only see the tips of her fingers. We do not know whether the gesture is in greeting or farewell. Behind her is space and in the background are modern buildings.

The symbolism of the door is ambiguous: doors connect, but they can also separate; they can lead into vast empty space or open in welcome. Selbstbildnis (…an der Tür) (Self-Portrait (...at the door)) appears to offer a prophetic look into Baumgarte's own future. Her art changed in the 1980s and became more emotional. She explored controversial social issues from a place of personal experience and individual belief. She also saw the culmination of her life's work in her Africa cycle, which was shown at numerous international exhibitions and brought her recognition for her artistic oeuvre.