The colorist

Studio corner (evening), 1945, watercolor and ink (pen) on cream Ingres paper, 45,2 x 30,7 cm

From a humanistic stance, Ruth Baumgarte linked social issues throughout her life with the suggestive radiance of color, which became the driving energy of her work.

During her studies at the Berlin State University of Fine Arts from 1941 to 1944, she learned about the watercolor technique through her friend Florian Breuer, whose enthusiasm she shared for the expressionist painters Paul Klee and August Macke, who were banned during the Nazi dictatorship. The first works in watercolor such as Studio Corner (In the Evening), 1945, 1945, or the portrait Didi, 1945, were created. They are depicted with bright, bold colors based on the three primary colors of modernist painting, red, yellow and blue.

In her industrial cycle, which was created between 1952 and 1969, she no longer uses local colors, but rather aligns the coloring of the picture objects according to an internal pictorial logic that, according to the Berlin art historian Eckhart J. Gillen, puts individual works in an artistic proximity to those of the same time Pop Art art movement in the 1960s.

Relics (Relics I), 1987, Watercolor on paper, 74,8 x 55,3 cm

Ruth Baumgarte's subjects correspond with a coordinated expressive color scheme. In the 1980s, for example, she used them to seduce viewers into seeing and at the same time confront them with the uncomfortable social issues depicted.

Pure colors that otherwise determine the color scheme of her work include: B. completely resigned from the Relikte plant in 1987. A spectrum of secondary colors dominates: green, orange and violet, which give the subject an unpleasant, toxic effect. They emphatically emphasize the transitory state of the subjects from a living to a dead state. The work symbolically alludes to the oil price crisis in 1986 and the environmental pollution caused by chemical factories caused by contaminated wastewater. The colorist uses the watery watercolor paint to create an additional reference to the theme.

She created an aesthetic color space that gave her the necessary distance to determine her own position in life more clearly.

Misunderstanding (The Misunderstanding / Das Misunderstanding), 1993, oil on cardboard, 137 x 98 cm

But it was her trips to Africa from 1980 and her return to oil painting that led Ruth Baumgarte to new interpretations. The light of the south and the intense colorful effect of the local nature deeply impressed the painter and she developed her very own expressive style, which introduced a new colorism in her work.

“With her explosive late work, Ruth Baumgarte brought the dazzling light of Africa not only to Europe, but also to the USA; the deeply felt light of the south had never been portrayed 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, General Director of the Albertina Vienna.

ALBERTINA, Wien, Ausstellung "Africa Visions of Light and Color"