ART COLOGNE / 54th International Art Market, Cologne

Dying Swan (Black Over White)
© Willi Baumeister / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Willi Baumeister

Sterbender Schwan (Schwarz über Weiß) / Dying Swan (Black Over White), 1940

Oil on cardboard
65,5 × 54 cm

signed and dated lower right: Baumeister 40
(BAUMEW/M 176)

price upon request
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verso (written later) "Black over White", 1940 (Dying Swan) Hanna Bekker vom Rath von Willi 16.2.51

One of originally four variations of the theme

Provenance: Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Hofheim/Taunus; Galerie Schlichtenmaier, Grafenau; private property, Southern Germany
Exhibitions: 1947 Frankfurter Kunstkabinett Hanna Bekker vom Rath; 1961 Oldenburger Kunstverein; 1962 Goethe-Institut Saloniki; 1963 Frankfurter Kunstverein; 1965 Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein; 1984/85 Leverkusen, Hoechst Jahrhunderthalle
Literature: Peter Beye / Felicitas Baumeister, Willi Baumeister. Werkkatalog der Gemälde, vol. II, Ostfildern, 2002, no. 910, with ill.

The painting "Dying Swan" from 1940 is one of the programmatic links in Willi Baumeister's oeuvre - between his fantastic journeys of discovery into Goethe's world of the primordial and the search for traces of modern myths that led him to the "Eidos" paintings, he painted a total of four variants on the theme of the "Dying Swan" - with changing titles: The present work was alternatively called "St "rbender Schwan" or "Schwarz über Weiß", but was also meaningfully called "Eidos mit den schwarzen Formen, genannt Sterbender Schwan". The Greek word "eidos" means "idea" or "archetype" - in the context of Baumeister's work aptly chosen, since it unites Plato's theory of ideas and Goethe's theory of nature. The background was admittedly - also biographically - more serious. Like his friends Oskar Schlemmer and Julius Bissier, the inner émigré Baumeister suffered from the occupational ban under the National Socialists. Baumeister alone, who had sought early contacts with international artists-especially in France-found a breathtaking freedom in the creation of his themes, whose mythicism and untamed imagination rose above the intellectual confinement and repressive measures. In the "Dying Swan," organic-looking white forms pile floatingly on top of one another, separated by amoebic and ideogrammatic ciphers from similar but black forms that conclude the painting upward. The enchanting scenery is backed by a buzzing colorfulness, reaching into the restrained pointillist, and linear figurations, one of which at the right edge of the picture can be interpreted as the outline of a swan. A hitherto unpublished, largely matching drawing in private hands in Württemberg, dated 1940, will be included in the supplement to Ponert's catalog raisonné by Felicitas Baumeister and Ulrike Gauss.
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