ARTISTS / Modern art
Willi Baumeister

Eidos primal life
© Willi Baumeister / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Willi Baumeister

Eidos Urleben / Eidos primal life, 1940

Oil on cardboard, on plywood
64,5 × 53,5 cm

inscribed lower right: Baumeister; on the reverse: label: Städtisches Museum Wuppertal, exhibition Baumeister, 1959
(BAUMEW/M 185)

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Literature: Provenance: Rasch Collection, Wuppertal
Exhibitions: 1959 Wuppertal Art and Museum Society
Literature: Peter Beye / Felicitas Baumeister, Willi Baumeister. Werkkatalog der Gemälde, vol. II, Ostfildern, 2002, no. 896, with ill.
Will Grohmann, Willi Baumeister. Leben und Werk, Cologne 1963, no. 564 (as Eidos Urleben I).

Willi Baumeister went through several phases of upheaval in his artistic life, especially in the 1930s and '60s. On the one hand, he was among the most productive artists who were banned from painting under the Nazi dictatorship; on the other hand, he was one of the most creative, constantly reinventing himself in his picture series. Together with his friend Oskar Schlemmer and other colleagues, he had not only a financial but also a spiritual home in the Wuppertal paint factory Kurt Herberts. The absolutely friendly competition with Schlemmer inspired Baumeister e-norm in particular; moreover, the death of the admired Paul Klee in 1940 seemed to spur him on in his unbridled imagination. It was during these times that the Eidos pictures were created, which could hardly be surpassed in their playful elements and in their lyrical, velvety mood. Growing out of the sign-like ideograms, they also already announced the heavier thoughts to the archaic Africa and Gilgamesh pictures. Seemingly free in line, even buoyant, nobly restrained in color, these works are considered an artistic reflection on the almost scientific interest in archetypes, which Baumeister believes to recognize macro- as well as microscopically, so to speak. "The materials ... have their characteristic inherent form, external influences form their destinies: the pebble is abraded by the stream, the wood washed out by the sea, the edge of the shore milled out, the sand waved by the wind. In contrast, the active shaping of organisms from within. Innumerable are the conceivable forms ... Every conceivable form exists in nature and can be proved. Probably nothing can be invented that could not be discovered." ("Room and Wall Ghosts") It was precisely the microscopic view of amoebae and the like that inspired the artist's work: "Involuntarily, parables to nature have emerged, parables to something that before was not a visual experience ... and which afterwards is seen as beautiful in form."
Since the picture is listed in the diary before cat. No. 897, Grohmann's assumption that it is the first version of the theme is probably correct.
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