Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Willi Baumeister
1889 - 1955
signed and dated 1936 twice on the stretcher
oil on canvas
131 by 97.5 cm. 51 1/2 by 38 3/8 in.
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Private Collection, Stuttgart
Stuttgart, Stuttgarter Kunstkabinett R. N. Ketterer, 3 May 1962, Lot 20
Galerie Klihm, Munich
Karl Ströher, Darmstadt
Thence by descent to the present owner


Saloniki, Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Kunst von 1910 bis zur Gegenwart, January 1962, no. 1
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Die Sammlung Karl Ströher, 2, 1965-66, n.p., no. 6, illustrated
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Bildnerische Ausdrucksformen 1910-1960, Sammlung Karl Ströher, April - June 1970, n.p., illustrated 
Tübingen, Kunsthalle; Ludwigshafen a.Rh., Kunstverein; Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Kunstverein Ludwigshafen; Mannheim, Kunstverein Ludwighafen; and Bonn, Museum Städtische Kunstsammlungen Bonn, Willi Baumeister, Gemälde, November 1971- April 1972, n.p., no. 37, illustrated


Will Grohmann, 'L'Art Contemporain en Allemange', in: Cahiers d'Art, Vol. 13, 1/2, Paris 1938, p. 22, illustrated 
Horst Schwab, Die Eidosbilder von Willi Baumeister, Mainz 1959, p. 54, no. 59, illustrated
Will Grohmann, Willi Baumeister, Leben und Werk, Cologne 1963, p. 71, no. 422, illustrated
Dora Vallier, Geschichte der Malerei 1870-1940, Cologne 1963, pp. 164-65, illustrated
Erika Pohl, Ursula Ströher and Gerhard Pohl, Karl Ströher, Sammler und Sammlung, Stuttgart 1982, p. 41, no. 29, illustrated
Peter Beye and Felicitas Baumeister, Willi Baumeister, Werkkatalog der Gemälde, Ostfildern 2002, Vol. II, p. 273, no. 666, illustrated

Catalogue Note

As one of the most important protagonists of abstract painting, the German artist, illustrator, stage designer, and art theorist Willi Baumeister was an essential part of the post-war European avant-garde. Painted in 1936, Figur Malerisch (Picturesque Figure) is a quintessential example of the playful abstraction Baumeister developed from the 1920s to his death in 1955. The present work, with its rich iconography of weightless biomorphic shapes floating across the canvas, evokes the primordial forms that maintained the artist’s fascination throughout his career. Although highly abstract in its composition, the work suggests references to figurative elements in a surrealist manner. Reminiscent of the works of peers like Paul Klee and Joan Miró, Baumeister forged a lexicon of extraordinary marks and shapes that was wholly his own.

In 1927 Baumeister accepted a teaching post at the Städelsche Kunstschule in Frankfurt, where from 1928 he taught a class in commercial art, typography and textile printing. In the spring of 1933, following the National Socialist rise to power, Baumeister was dismissed from his professorship at the school. Further, as he focused increasingly on abstraction, Baumeister was alienated from the artistic program of the Third Reich, which promoted heroic ideals of Germany’s past through representational work influenced by classical art. In 1937, only one year after Figur Malerisch was created, Baumeister’s paintings, along with the work by his long-time friend and collaborator Oskar Schlemmer, were included in the notorious Degenerate Art exhibition. In 1941 an absolute ban on Baumeister’s art was instituted. Faced with the exhibition prohibition, Baumeister continued to exhibit his paintings abroad. Unlike many artists of his generation, he remained in Germany throughout the second world war in the face of political discrimination, relegation and isolation. Baumeister had had the unique opportunity to continue a vigorous development of his artistic practice from the confines of a paint factory owned by the progressive entrepreneur Kurt Herberts in Wuppertal.

When the Second World War ended Baumeister was reinstated as one of the greatest living masters of modern German painting and in 1946 he was appointed a professor of the Kunstakademie in Stuttgart. As Fernand Léger concluded on the artist, “The name Baumeister occupies an extremely important place in modern German art. In fact, if you keenly observe his work, Baumeister represents a German art of international essence. His development remained always in strong contact with the art of all times – from Assyria to Paul Klee, to Kandinsky, to Miró and to the art of all lands…” (Fernand Léger cited in the introduction by Oto Bihalji-Merin in: Willi Baumeister, Das Unbekannte in der Kunst, Cologne 1960, p. 10).

Contemporary Art Day Auction