Willi Baumeister - German abstract painter

Willi Baumeister (22 January 1889 – 31 August 1955) was a German painter, scenic designer, art professor, and typographer.Baumeister took part in his first exhibition in 1910, showing figurative works inspired by impressionism. His chief interest was even at this time already in cubism and Paul Cézanne, whose work remained important to him throughout his life. These influences of impressionism and cubism that shaped Baumeister’s early paintings played an essential role in his work until the end of the 1920s. On the one hand, his representational painting was increasingly reduced (abstracting and geometric) as it gained form and lost depth. Parallel to the paintings of his friend Oskar Schlemmer, Baumeister’s independent exploration of form and color emerged. Already around 1919, his teacher Adolf Hölzel wrote to him: «Out of all of us, you will be the one who will achieve the most.» Also worth noticing is that the idiosyncratic German path into modernism, expressionism, barely resonates at all in Baumeister’s work, even though he had met, for instance, Franz Marc earlier on, and was certainly acquainted with the works of the Brücke (Bridge) artists and those of the Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider).Towards the end of the 1920s, the shapes in Baumeister’s pictures grew softer. His paintings moved away from being oriented by the elementary shapes of the circle, triangle, and square towards organic forms. Although this development could also be observed concurrently in the work of other artists of his time, in Baumeister’s case, it was tied to his fascination for the prehistoric and archaic paintings. Baumeister intensely explored artifacts of early paintings and integrated this pictorial experience into his own painting. He identified the symbols, signs, and figures of cave painting as components of a valid archaic pictorial language that he used in his works. These included his increasing number of paintings in «oil on sand on canvas» that, in their materials, also approached the cave painting that Baumeister so admired (beg. ca. 1933). He himself collected examples of prehistoric findings, small sculptures, and tools, and occupied himself with cliff drawings that had been discovered in Rhodesia. This experience was undoubtedly important for Baumeister’s artistic disposition since he, evidently inspired by this rich store of prehistoric works, ultimately used extraordinarily reduced organic shapes for his «ideograms» (beg. ca. 1937). In these works he used a unique world of signs, which he saw as symbols for the laws of nature, their evolution, and human existence.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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