Four engines of modernity / Hölzel ▪︎ Baumeister ▪︎ Baum ▪︎ Fleischmann

Figures on blue
© Willi Baumeister / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Willi Baumeister

Figuren auf Blau / Figures on blue, 1950

Oil and tempera on cardboard
35,5 × 45,7 cm

signed lower right: Baumeister; on the reverse signed, inscribed and dated: Figures on blue; Baumeister 1950
(BAUMEW/M 179)

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signed u. l.: Baumeister; verso signed, inscribed and dated: Figures on blue; Baumeister 1950
Provenance: Private property Washington D.C.; Private collection Stuttgart
Literature: Peter Beye / Felicitas Baumeister, Willi Baumeister. Catalog raisonné of the paintings, vol. II, Ostfildern, 2002, no. 1302

Around 1950 Willi Baumeister was one of the formative representatives of abstraction in Germany, who also arguably stood up for it, as is shown, for example, by his participation in the "Darmstadt Talks" beginning in 1950, where, for example, "The Image of Man of Our Time" was at issue. The painting "Figures in Blue" from this period shows the genius in which the artist playfully brings together abstract and figurative painting - not as either/or, but as both/and. Even the title makes a commitment to figuration, but bravuraly points to the importance of the background shade of blue, which is far from conveying the idea of landscape space or even as sky. Amorphous forms and geometric signs in iridescent white, yellow, and beige are grouped around a small red form whose dissected shape we already encounter in many of Baumeister's paintings from the 1940s. Our visual habit associates the circles and curved brushstrokes as heads and limbs, so that the whole scene could be identified as a dancing or carnivalesque or similar-looking group of people - sometimes motivated by the moving mood, sometimes inspired by the triangular or three-pointed head or cap shape. This is primarily an irrepressibly imaginative bustle of colors and shapes that fill the format in a well-balanced composition.
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