A myriad of topics move me;
far too many for one human life to suffice,
to lend form to all of them.

Ruth Baumgarte

As a representational artist, Ruth Baumgarte (1923-2013) is oriented towards reality. But in her œuvre she turns to the inner experience in ever new formulations. In this point she follows the German Romanticism, to look as an observer at a world and to watch the longings and hopes for an ideal world fail.

Africa, the enigmatic continent with its power, but also its great social and political changes, becomes the impulse of her brilliant color-saturated work, which has received great international attention.

"With her explosive late work, Ruth Baumgarte brought the glistening light of Africa not only to Europe but also to the United States; the deeply felt light of the South had not been depicted in this way before. With the unique intensity of her paintings, she joins the genealogy of the great colorists of the 20th century," notes Klaus Albrecht Schröder, Director General of the Albertina Vienna.

I am not a Käthe Kollwitz type.
Politics moves me, but I can't move the world,
can't change it, only observe...

Exhibition Activity and Honors

Her work has been shown in national and international galleries and institutions since 1947. Major survey shows of her Africa cycle were held at the Ludwig Museum Koblenz in 2017, the Ludwig Foundation at the Marble Palace of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 2018, and the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig in 2019. The first retrospective of 180 works was hosted by the Museum of Art and Cultural History in Dortmund in 2022. A highlight was the show on the Africa cycle at the Albertina in Vienna in 2022/23, which was visited by over 200,000 people.

Ruth Baumgarte also received public recognition and honors posthumously through the erection of a memorial stele in Berlin-Karlshorst in 2020 for her system-critical artistic treatment of racially, religiously and politically motivated crimes during National Socialism. Since 2021, a street in Berlin-Karlshorst has been named after her.

In addition, one of Bielefeld's light rail vehicles has also borne the artist's name since 2021. With this award, the city of Bielefeld honors her retrospectively for her life's work as a deserving and highly esteemed citizen and makes a contribution to the culture of remembrance in the city of Bielefeld.