Social Reality in Art

Series: Non-sedentary, 1987, chalk and pastels on Ingres paper, 63 x 48,4 cm

Those excluded from society

When Ruth Baumgarte began to travel to the African continent more often in the 1980s, at the same time she began to notice socio-political issues in her homeland. Clear-sighted and precise about the social and societal undesirable developments of her time, she reflects social reality in her art. During this time, many milieu studies were created that depict the tension between the individual and society, people and nature.

While she was studying in Berlin, Ruth Baumgarte drew people who were excluded from society, such as the Sinti and Roma persecuted by the National Socialists and murdered in Auschwitz, or researched the working class milieu in her immediate surroundings. These are first tentative but also courageous attempts to find an independent view of their environment.

In 1986, the stirring encounters with homeless people inspired the artist to work on an eight-part series Non-Settled with motifs from the poor population. The chalk drawings on made paper, up to 60 centimeters in size, depict older men in socially tense situations, which the illustrator impressively sketches with a close look at reality using only a few artistic means.

To the oeuvre

Cairo Backschisch (Bakschisch II), 1985, charcoal on cream-colored Ingres paper, 89,2 x 64,5 cm

Humanist with a realistic view

At the same time, Ruth Baumgarte continued her travels to the African continent and created her first series of charcoal drawings, which captured the poor population of Egypt in expressive lines. In her art she tries to find an artistic language for people's fears and worries, which she always succeeds in most impressively thanks to her constant confrontation with reality.

Typical of the artist's representational way of working is how she takes up precarious social issues from a humanistic stance and captures them precisely with a pointed pen, broad graphite or pitch-black charcoal pencil. “Baksheesh” means gift or tip that is given for services, favors and as alms in Islamic countries. The artist took it as a symbol of a society living in poverty that is dependent on support from the general public due to the lack of social systems. These are precarious consequences of the global industrial and affluent society.

With the multi-part series of drawing themes from 1985 to 1987, she returned to this realistic view of the marginalized in society in her art.