Art before 1945 – Coming of Age

Gypsies in the Rain, 1943, chalk on paper, 48 x 37.8 cm

A keen eye for people and situations

Ruth Baumgarte received her first impulses and far-reaching influences for her further artistic career from 1941 to 1944 at the State University of Fine Arts in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Gerhard Ulrich imparted her in-depth training in free graphics and drawing in the illustration class. Kurt Wehlte, a specialist in painting techniques, introduces you to painting. From the very beginning, Ruth Baumgarte has a keen eye for the people and situations in her social environment, takes a close look at the entanglements and conditions of the time and reveals social conditions in her artistic depictions. 

Subversive hints

One of her early important works - Gypsies in the Rain - was created during her artistic training. She is already presenting her talent in drawing with a detailed depiction of the figures and complicated spatial arrangements. The motif shows two fleeing musicians in front of the silhouette of the Wuhlheide train station, which is located near the artist's former apartment in Berlin-Karlshorst and was a transit station for the deportation trains to Auschwitz.

The depiction of Sinti and Roma in art is remarkable and certainly occurs outside of the classroom, as such depictions provide subversive references to the inexorable consequences of the inhumane racial ideology during National Socialism.

To the oeuvre

Boy portrait, 1944, pastel chalk on gray Ingres paper, 41 x 31,3 cm

The lost generation

During the war years she observed the deportations of those persecuted by the Nazi dictatorship and some of her works tell of expulsion and persecution - an important contribution to art during the Second World War. The impressive series of portraits of young and older men around 1943/44 is also noteworthy, because in her depiction the artist impressively exposes their powerlessness and fear of the Volkssturm towards the end of the war and captures the inevitable situation in resigned and melancholic portraits.

Modern portraiture

At the same time, she got to know the technically demanding watercolor painting through her college friend Florian Breuer, who would have a strong influence on her through this painting technique. Her extraordinary gift as a portraitist is manifested in self-portraits between 1940 and 1944. She also devotes her attention to children in art with a series of sensitive portraits of small children and young people. Her portrait art is generally considered an important contribution to modern portraiture.