Change of Weather, 1982

Change of Weather, 1982
Watercolor on paper, 27 x 38 cm

Even as a student, Ruth Baumgarte was fascinated by artistic explorations of the particular mood of a day or a season. Early poems capture the silver veil of fine rain ("Silberschleier feinen Regens"), twilight moments ("das Zwielicht mancher Stunde") and the cloudless summer days ("Sommerstunden ... wolkenlos"). Trips to Spain around 1980 and a desire to concentrate more on her own subjects alongside portrait commissions inspired her to focus more on landscapes in watercolour.

For this depiction of a spring day at the seaside, she has chosen a subtle colour scheme of violet, grey, brown and light yellow. The observer is looking down from a vantage point onto the wide waters of a bay bathed in pale sunlight. Dark clouds are gathering over the land on the other side of the bay and signalling rain to come. With pale unpainted patches at the bottom right of the picture, the artist shows that on this day, the boundaries between sea and land are fluid. Signs of human activity can be seen through the gnarled branches of a group of plane trees.

Interestingly, Baumgarte repeatedly places marks of modernity such as street lights, electricity pylons and traffic signs at the edge of her studies. Human engineering is − so the sobering conclusion goes − an integral part of the scene. Just two years later, she would dramatically depict the consequences of human interference in nature in her work Umwelt (Environment).