Around 1930, the work of Willi Baumeister (1889–1955) underwent a radical change. Moving on from the constructivist compositions of the 1920s, he turned away from figurative subjects and developed organic, floating forms that could crystallize into simple pictorial signs – the »ideogram« as the »primal form of the pictorial«.
Thirteen paintings serve as examples of the different workgroups he produced at this time.
Baumeister's formal repertoire was partly inspired by his intense interest in ancient texts, myths and prehistoric African rock paintings, which he knew from books. »The painter must find the shortest, simplest way of expressing the essential qualities of human beings. ... The figures acquire the significance of symbols. They have become signs.«
During the years of National Socialist ostracism and inner emigration after 1933, Baumeister still continued to develop his non-representational visual language, making no compromises while working under the most difficult conditions. In 1937 his works were removed from German museums and four of his pictures were shown in the »Degenerate Art« exhibition; in 1938 he participated in the counter-exhibition »Twentieth-Century German Art« in London. The following year, the Parisian Galerie Jeanne Bucher staged another solo exhibition to mark his fiftieth birthday. When political repression made painting virtually impossible for him, he devoted himself to working on his book »Das Unbekannte in der Kunst« (The Unknown in Art).
»As it is no longer possible to get canvas, I paint small-scale pictures on cardboard. In the studio it's very nice and quiet. On the other hand, the depression induced by these times is not easy to bear. ... I will probably never again be able to show my works in exhibitions.« (Baumeister, 1941)
His art became a bridge between the avant-garde of the 1920s and the new start after 1945, when art was once again able to develop freely. Not least of all through his role as a professor at Stuttgart's Kunstakademie, Baumeister exerted an enduring influence on the emerging German modernism of the post-war period.
Exhibition in Berlin: February 24 to June 2, 2018
Tuesday–Friday 10 am – 6 pm, Saturday 11 am – 3 pm
Catalogue 10,– Euro