Willi Baumeister


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(b Stuttgart, 22 Jan. 1889; d Stuttgart, 31 Aug. 1955).

German abstract painter. Unlike most significant German painters of his time, he stood apart from Expressionism and is regarded as the most ‘European’ in spirit of his contemporaries. Between 1911 and 1914 he had several stays in Paris (sometimes in company with his close friend Oskar Schlemmer) and his early work was influenced by Cubism. After military service in the First World War, he began to develop a personal style in a series (1919–23) of Mauerbilder (wall paintings), so called because he added sand, putty, etc., to his pigments to give a textured effect. In the mid-1920s his work became more figurative, in a manner recalling Léger and the Purists (he met Léger, Le Corbusier, and Ozenfant when he revisited Paris in 1924), and his work received considerable acclaim in France. In 1928 he was appointed professor of typography at the Städel School in Frankfurt, but in 1933 he was dismissed by the Nazis, who declared his work degenerate. From then until the end of the Second World War he worked in obscurity in Stuttgart. During this time his painting became freer, with suggestions of primitive imagery, creating a kind of abstract Surrealism. His interest in imagery from the subconscious was described in his book Das Unbekannte in der Kunst (The Unknown in Art), published in 1947. After the war Baumeister became a hero to a younger generation of German abstract artists. From 1946 until his death he was a professor at the Stuttgart Academy.

Subjects: Art.

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