BAUMEISTER Willi
Born in Stuttgart, 1889. He is the least German and, possibly, the most European of the German painters. At a time when all modern German painters are more or less strongly attached to Expressionism, which is a specifically German movement, Expressionism is almost nonexistent in Baumeister. Instead, one can notice NeoPlasticism, Constructivism, Negro or Aztec art, speleology, prehistory and calligraphy; that is to say, universal rather than national influences. Baumeister is eminently a painter of today, and his art shows the major themes, the fleeting loves, as well as the nostalgia and secret desires of this highly complex era. The variety of his work, the sudden changes, his heaviness and his lightness, sometimes coupled together, could easily baffle the spectator; yet the work as a whole remains one of the most curious of our time by reason of its explorations in unexpected places, and one of the most moving by reason of its varied themes, each one revealing a new style, each one bringing something surprisingly novel into the plastic arts. The logical evolution of these themes is in itself significant. After canvases offering nothing but horizontal and vertical lines, from 1920 on he began to paint his Mauerbilder, mural paintings, in which curved and sloping lines are again admitted. About 1928 he began the series entitled Painter with His Palette, in which undulating lines appear together with rectilinear planes, with vivid touches of colour in the palette. At the same time he developed the sports theme (Tennis Players, Runner) which, towards 1933, changed to a simple ideogram (The Jumper, Homo Footballensis).
During the war, prohibited from teaching by the Hitler regime, Baumeister began to devote himself to scientific research on colour, and became passionately absorbed in the study of prehistoric archaeology. In secret he executed a series of paintings of weird, organic forms, usually in an earth colour on a white ground, which he called African Histories. They are very much like the Perforations and Paintings in Relief of the same period, all of them strongly impregnated with the prehistoric and the archaic. After the war these forms were made more ordered and civilized ( 1946-1947), and became a kind of script -- not yet deciphered, according to the painter himself. After some new detours, Baumeister then produced an astonishing series of paintings with large black surfaces, which he called Montaru. This was in 1953. Then, almost at once, he began a new series, in which black gave way to white, and these he named Monturi. Such is the bewildering -- and, to some, exasperating -- course of Baumeister's work. Affinities with Léger and Miró are discernible at certain points, but only in details. His work is never systematic, never hardened into any one method, and stays supple and inventive at every moment of its evolution.
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