Willi Baumeister




Since 2001 Galerie Fred Jahn has been collaborating directly with the estate of the Willi Baumeister Foundation in Stuttgart and is increasingly devoted to the artist's drawings. Willi Baumeister found his subjects in archaic mythologies and foreign cultures, symbols and drawings. He thus dealt with prehistoric artefacts, wall painting, and with Asian and African art. With the appearance of the organic around the middle of his productive period, the subject of metamorphosis emerged, which, encouraged by Goethe’s poem “The Metamorphosis of the Plant” from 1799, had a significant effect on countless artists. Similar to Paul Klee, the metamorphoses of Baumeister’s forms belong to an intellectual and artistic tradition which states that natural and artistic processes run parallel, and that nature and art both pursue creative, inherently logical laws, organising themselves accordingly.

In searching for the origin of the creation of artistic forms, for the “primal moment”, so to speak, the motif of metamorphosis also serves as the starting point for reflection on the artistic as such. His book from 1947, “The Unknown in Art”, carries within the title a subject that Baumeister explored all his life. In order to investigate this idea, he found adequate formal and technical solutions for each group of his works. Initially representational and post-impressionistic, his work then changed its visual language to that of constructivism. Later organic forms appeared, the work became more painterly, more fluid, until he finally arrived at his characteristic abstract forms. He considered a formal problem or a subject from multiple angles, which could result in using a piece of hardboard or a cardboard box as a replacement for the classical canvas. He achieved the textures that were important to him by using sand, resin, paint and putty.

Willi Baumeister developed a very personal, impressive visual language that was unique to German art at that time. He strove for modernity in art that would correspond in content and form to a new mentality. In close contact with the avant-garde of his time, Willi Baumeister worked practically and theoretically on artistic means of expression that made it possible to reflect social change. His work is equally recognised at home and abroad.



Willi Baumeister is born on 22nd January in Stuttgart


Attends the Königliche Württembergische Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart


Joins the advanced class of Adolf Hölzel


Studies three months at the Cercle International des Beaux-Artes in Paris


Member of the new artist’s association Üecht


Begins teaching at the Städel School in Frankfurt am Main

Appointed professor in October


Baumeister is dissmissed from his Frankfurt teaching post on 31 January


He stores 64 of his paintings and a large selection of his gouaches and drawings, in the Basel Kunsthalle in order to save them from confiscation by the Nazis


Cut off from sources of artistic stimulation, he works reclusively in his studio in Stuttgart. Scarcity of materials makes regular artistic activity still more difficult. Like every other artist classified by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’, he is banned from painting and exhibiting


Begins work on his book “Das Unbekannte in der Kunst” (The Unknown in Art), which is published in Stuttgart in 1947 in an edition of 5000 copies


First post-war exhibition in the foyer of the Kammerspiele playhouse in Stuttgart


Teaches as a professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart

Elected Deputy Director in 1951


Work by him is included in a small selection of contemporary German art at the first post-war Venice Biennale


Founding member of the artist’s association “Gruppe der Gegenstandslosen” (Group of Non-representational Artists); called “Gruppe ZEN 49” from January 1950


His painting “Kosmische Geste” (Cosmic Gesture) wins the first prize at the first São Paulo Biennale


  1. Venice Biennale


The Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, marks his 65. birthday by mounting a large-scale retrospective of his work. Chosen by himself, it features some 150 paintings


documenta 1 in Kassel

Gustav Klimt Award from the Vienna Secession

Willi Baumeister dies on August 31st in Stuttgart while painting in his studio

Selected Solo Shows


Willi Baumeister – Jahn und Jahn, Munich


Willi Baumeister. Der Zeichner. Figur und Abstraktion in der Kunst auf Papier – Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin

Willi Baumeister. Gemälde und Zeichnungen von 1921 bis 1955 – Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese at the Armory Show, New York


Willi Baumeister. Gemälde und Werke auf Papier 1931–1954 – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich

auf papier... arbeiten von willi baumeister – Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart


Willi Baumeister – Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Berlin


Willi Baumeister International – Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart; MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg


Willi Baumeister. Arbeiten auf Papier / Works on Paper 1923–1954 – Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich; Simon Theobald Ltd., London; Villa Grisebach, Berlin (cat.)


Willi Baumeister. Gemälde und Zeichnungen – Museo Fundación Juan March, Palma; Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur; MART Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto


Willi Baumeister. Figuren und Zeichen – Bucerius Kunstforum, Hamburg; Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster; Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal


Willi Baumeister 1889–1955. Die Frankfurter Jahre 1928–1933 – Museum Giersch, Frankfurt am Main


Willi Baumeister – Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sala de Exposiciones Fundación Caja, Madrid; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich


Willi Baumeister. Zeichnungen und Gemälde – Galerie Fred Jahn and Galerie Fred Jahn Studio, Munich (Kat.)


Willi Baumeister et la France – Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar; Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne


Deutschlandbilder. Kunst aus einem geteilten Land – Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin


Willi Baumeister. Zeichnungen – Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden; Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Munich


Art and Power. Europe under the Dictators 1930–45 – Hayward Gallery, London

  1. The End of the War – Annely Juda Fine Art, London


Willi Baumeister. Malerei und Grafik – Galerie am Fischmarkt, Erfurt


Willi Baumeister. Malarstwo i grafika – Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, Poland


Willi Baumeister – Nationalgalerie, SMPK, Berlin


ZEN 49. Die ersten zehn Jahre. Orientierungen – Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden


German Art in the 20th Century / Deutsche Kunst im 20. Jahrhundert – Royal Academy of Arts, London; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart


Contrasts of Form. Geometric Abstract Art 1910–1980 from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, including the Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation – The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Willi Baumeister 1889–1955. Gemälde, Zeichnungen – Henie-Onstad Kunstsentret, Høvikodden, Norway; Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen; Ateneum, Helsinki; Kunstmuseum, Turku, Finland; Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem; Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels; Museum van Heedendagse Kunst, Gent; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon; Musée d’Art Moderne, Strasbourg; Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux; Musée de l’Etat, Luxemburg


Willi Baumeister 1945–1955 – Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart


Baumeister 1889–1955 – Galerie Beyeler, Basel

Willi Baumeister 1889–1955 – Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York


Willi Baumeister. Bilder und Zeichnungen – Kunstverein Braunschweig, Braunschweig


Willi Baumeister 1889–1955. Dessins et sérigraphies – Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille


Willi Baumeister 1889–1955 – Kulturamt der Stadt Regensburg, Donaueinkaufszentrum, Regensburg


Willi Baumeister. Zeichnungen und Gouachen – Nationalgalerie, SMPK, Berlin

Willi Baumeister 1889–1955. Zeichnungen und Gouachen – Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt am Main; Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck; Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen


Willi Baumeister (1889–1955) – Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome

Willi Baumeister. Dokumente, Texte, Gemälde – Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen


Willi Baumeister. Malerei und Graphik der 20er Jahre – Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart


Willi Baumeister 1889–1955. Zeichnungen – Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart und Mannheimer Kunstverein


Willi Baumeister. Gemälde, Zeichnungen / Peintures, Dessins – Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen; Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève, Geneva; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris


Willi Baumeister – Akademie der Künste, Berlin

Willi Baumeister. Gemälde und Zeichnungen – Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe


Gilgamesch – Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg


Biennale, Venice

Willi Baumeister, E.W. Nay – Kunsthalle Basel


Peintures et sculptures non-figuratives en Allemagne d’aujourd’hui – Cercle Volney, Paris; Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf

documenta in Kassel


Willi Baumeister – Galerie Günther Franke, Munich

Willi Baumeister. Œuvres récentes – Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris


Younger European Painters – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


Willi Baumeister – Hacker Gallery, New York

Willi Baumeister (Retrospektive) – Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart


ZEN 49 – Central Art Collecting Point, Munich


Willi Baumeister – Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Paris


Moderne Deutsche Kunst seit 1933 – Kunsthalle Bern, Bern