Style: Modern, Expressionism
Background: Willi Baumeister, born in Stuttgart on January 22, 1889, completed an apprenticeship as a decorative painter in his native city from 1905 to 1907, followed by military service (fall 1907–1908).
Education: During his apprenticeship, Baumeister also began art studies at the Stuttgart Art Academy (Königlich Württembergische Akademie) (1905–1906), attended Robert Poetzelberger’s drawing class, and took additional lessons from Josef Kerschensteiner. In 1906 he resumed his apprenticeship and, in 1907, completed the trade test.
Following his military service, Baumeister continued his studies at the art academy.
Achievements: Baumeister took his first trip to Paris in 1911, successfully participated in a gallery exhibition in Zurich in 1912 and a year later participated in Der Erste Deutsche Herbstsalon (The First German Autumn Salon) in the Berlin gallery Der Sturm. In 1914 Baumeister had his first solo exhibition at Der Neue Kunstsalon(New Art Salon) in Stuttgart. In the same year, Adolf Hölzel arranged a commission for wall paintings at the Deutsche Werkbund-Ausstellung (German Werkbund Exhibition) in Cologne for Baumeister, Schlemmer, and Herman Stenner. Prior to being drafted into the army in the summer of 1914 (until 1918), Baumeister travelled to Amsterdam, London, and Paris. In 1916 he participated in the exhibition Hölzel und sein Kreis (Hölzel and his Circle) at the Art Association in Freiburg im Breisgau, which was subsequently shown at the Ludwig Schames Art Salon in Frankfurt am Main. In 1918, still prior to being discharged from military service, he threw an exhibition with his friend Oskar Schlemmer at the Galerie Schaller in Stuttgart.
Today, Willi Baumeister’s work still attracts a lot of attention, particularly in Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. In contrast to the “French classics” of Modernism, or the important American artists of the second half of the twentieth century, Baumeister receives only a scant amount of attention in the Anglo-Saxon world. The quality of his work is undisputed.
It is clear that while working in “domestic emigration” during the Nazi dictatorship, he had no influence on the vital artistic environment. After 1945 Willi Baumeister played an important role in the development of German and European art. Among the German painters who remained in the country despite the persecution by the National Socialists from 1933 to 1945, only a few succeeded in achieving such pioneering strides toward new contents and forms. Following World War II, he became a spokesman in the debate on Modernism. Regarded as an advocate of “abstract” painting, he was highly regarded by some, while strongly condemned by others.
An important collection of Willi Baumeister’s works is preserved in the Willi Baumeister Archive, which is part of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, and in the Sammlung Domnick (Domnick Collection) in Nürtingen