Willi Baumeister


Willi Baumeister, Tschun-Li

Oil on hardboard on hardboard mounted

17 5/8 × 13 3/8 in on 20 1/2 × 16 1/8 in

Signed and dated »49« also signed, dated and titled again on the verso

Registered for the supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of the artist ̛s paintings by Felicitas Baumeister and Peter Beye, Baumeister Archive Stuttgart, as no. 1514A

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Private Collection Hesse; Villa Grisebach, Berlin (108th Auction, 30. May 2003, Lot 64); Private Collection Europe (2003-2023)

  • Galerie Ludorff, "Neuerwerbungen Frühjahr 2024", Düsseldorf 2023
  • Galerie Ludorff, "Neuerwerbungen Frühjahr 2024", Düsseldorf 2024, S. 10

The end of the National Socialist regime in 1945 marked the beginning of a period of great artistic significance for Willi Baumeister. His art had been defamed as "degenerate" during the Second World War, but the fear of never being allowed to work freely again was overcome with the liberation by the Allies. This political turning point marked a new artistic beginning for Baumeister. He used the subsequent period not least to complete his important publication "The Unknown in Art", which appeared in 1947.

In this work, Baumeister discusses his understanding of art, which focuses on the exploration of the unknown in the age of modern abstract art. The true content of a modern painting lies visible and hidden in the entirely external drama of the colours and forms. [...] It is not the decorative aspect that should represent the value, but something quite different, namely an inexplicable haunting, a magic that rises through the external impression, if the viewer is able to surrender to the impression receptively until the intuition of a content condenses and begins to speak to the viewer. 1) Baumeister encourages the viewer to detach themselves from rational interpretations and instead be guided by emotional impressions in order to discover the hidden in art.

Our work "Tschun-Li" from 1949 illustrates this idea. It belongs to the so-called "Nocturnes", a group of paintings with a deep blue background against which very colourful forms stand out clearly. Baumeister creates a structure of smaller areas of colour, lines and amorphous forms. They are distributed across the picture ground without any comprehensible or corresponding meaning, giving the impression of looking through a magnifying glass into the interior of the work in order to grasp its details. Inspired by archaeology and the paintings of African and Asian cultures, Baumeister gives himself over to a completely fictitious language of colour and form.

1) Willi Baumeister 1949, quoted from: Götz Adriani (ed.): Baumeister. Tübingen, 1971, p. 208.

About Willi Baumeister

With his art and his writings, Willi Baumeister played a decisive role in the abstraction and recognition of German Modernism after 1945.

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