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Kunstmuseum Stuttgart presents Willi Baumeister International

Kunstmuseum Stuttgart presents Willi Baumeister International on view through March 2, 2014.

Willi Baumeister, Großes Montaru (Large Montaru), 1953. Oil with synthetic resin on paper on hardboard, 135 x 185 cm. Private collection. Photo: Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013.
Willi Baumeister, Großes Montaru (Large Montaru), 1953. Oil with synthetic resin on paper on hardboard, 135 x 185 cm. Private collection. Photo: Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013.
The large retrospective in the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, with around 200 works, including loans from worldwide renowned museums and private collections, is the first to be devoted to Willi Baumeister’s international relationships with artists, gallerists, and collectors. Parts of his private collection, formed in particular through the exchange of his own works for those by befriended artists, will be publically presented for the first time. The exhibition Willi Baumeister International was organized in close collaboration with the Archiv Baumeister, which is housed in the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.

Willi Baumeister (1889–1955) is one of the most important artists of the German postwar era. His role as a defender of abstract painting in the 1950s, his function as a professor at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, and his work as an art theorist have cemented this image over the decades. Aside from a few exceptions, Baumeister resided his entire life in Stuttgart. As a result, the reception of his impact as an artist has long been dominated by the perception that his influence was limited to West Germany. Yet reducing Baumeister’s significance to his work as a significant German postwar artist falls too short. Indeed, throughout his life he forged a network comprised of leading art-scene figures from around the world.

Even as an art student Baumeister oriented himself toward international art trends. Among his role models were Paul Cézanne and the French Impressionists. While his paintings were initially still representational, beginning in 1919 he started working with geometric forms. The European avant-garde in France and Russia offered him models for a new, modern pictorial language. Baumeister achieved his artistic breakthrough in the early 1920s with the development of his constructivist “wall pictures.” Solo and group exhibitions in Paris followed, making him known throughout Europe. In 1930 Baumeister participated in the Venice Biennale for the first time. In 1933, through the National Socialists, he was dismissed from his teaching position at the Frankfurt School of Applied Arts, a post he had held since 1928. Abroad, by contrast, he remained a strong presence. Up to 1939, his works continued to be shown at galleries and museums in Italy, France, Switzerland, and England. After World War II Baumeister was able to pick up on his earlier success: In the following years he not only championed nonrepresentational painting in Germany but also fuelled artistic exchange within Europe. In 1949 he became the first German artist following the war to receive a solo exhibition in France. He now also gained increasing attention beyond Europe. In 1951 his work was featured at the first biennale in São Paulo and subsequently at exhibitions in the United States and Japan.

The exhibition traces Baumeister’s professional development from his days as an art student in Stuttgart to becoming one of the most significant exponents of abstract painting.

Along with paintings and drawings, previously seldom or never before shown archival materials are also presented, such as letter and newspaper articles. Also on view for the first time are objects from Baumeister’s private art collection. Through the exchange of works with his artist colleagues, he compiled a collection with pieces by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century. It includes paintings and graphics by Josef Albers, Georges Braque, Carlo Carrà, Marc Chagall, Albert Gleizes, Roberta Gonzales, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, El Lissitzky, August Macke, Kazimir Malevich, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Amédée Ozenfant, Pablo Picasso, Oskar Schlemmer, Kurt Schwitters, Michel Seuphor, Gino Severini, and Alexej von Jawlensky.

Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
Kleiner Schlossplatz 1
70173 Stuttgart
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Friday 10am–9pm
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