Winter Death I, 1982

Winter Death I, 1982
Watercolor on paper, 50 x 70 cm

At the centre of this jarring watercolour of a wintery riverscape in shades of blue, purple and flat yellow is the oversized head of a woman. The woman is lying with her head on a riverbank, and her hands are the only other part of her that is visible.

We can identify the deceased. She is Anna-Marie Schubert, Ruth Baumgarte's aunt, who had been very close to the artist and had often modelled for her. The work was painted eight years after Schubert's death.

In this surrealist depiction, the human body and nature merge. Very wet watercolour has been used and this creates a tear-like effect in places, in keeping with the mood of mourning. Ruth Baumgarte always painted her watercolours standing at an easel.

In this work, she impressively explores through art and personal connection the fundamental philosophical question of life, of living and dying. Anna-Marie Schubert (1889-1976) was the older sister of Ruth Baumgarte's mother. In the immediate post-war years, she and her foster son Dieter lived with Ruth, Ruth's son Thomas and Ruth's mother in Bielefeld. Ruth Baumgarte for a while earned a living for all five family members with her work as an illustrator.