Portrait, 1945, graphite on paper, 15 x 11,1 cm

Portrait, 1945, from: Composition with Five Studies (Children, Dogs, Portrait)

Ruth Baumgarte repeatedly treated her extensive portfolio of drawings as material in itself that she could work with and change. She would combine several single-subject studies and mount them on boards.

Here, quick pencil sketches of playing children, a detailed portrait study of a boy and two drawings of her boxer, Arco, are all mounted together. Dogs are a recurring motif throughout Baumgarte's work. The way in which the sketches are arranged tells a story: it creates dialogue between them and fundamentally alters how the subjects are interpreted.

Composition with five studies (children, dogs, portrait), pencil and graphite on paper, mounted on cardboard, 44.8 x 35 cm

For example, displayed on its own, the drawing of the boy would be interpreted as the portrait of an introverted youth. But shown here with the sketch of the dog, the boy's gaze can be interpreted differently. He is not looking shyly at his feet; rather, he is focusing attentively on the dog lying further down.