Willi Baumeister (German, 1889–1955) was a painter, scenic designer, teacher, and typographer, known for his Classical Modernist works and as a leading figure of the avant-garde in Germany in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Stuttgart, Baumeister completed an apprenticeship as a decorative painter while studying at the Stuttgart Art Academy. Between 1909 and 1912, he attended classes taught by influential artist Adolf Hölzel, and befriended fellow painter and designer Oskar Schlemmer. In 1912, Baumeister studied at the Cercle International des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and opened his first studio in Stuttgart. The following year, he participated in an exhibition at the Gallery Der Sturm in Berlin, and, in 1914, produced four wall pictures for the Werkbund Exhibition in Cologne.

After serving in World War I, he produced his first Mauerbilder, panels characterized by Cubist forms and wall-like relief structures, created by adding sand and putty to the paint. He also began sketching stage and costume designs for performances at theaters in Stuttgart, and worked in commercial graphics.

In 1927, Baumeister was offered a professorship in typography, commercial graphics, and fabric printing at the Frankfurt School of Applied Arts. In addition, Baumeister joined the Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) in 1930, a group of abstract artists based in Paris. He received the Württemberg State Prize for the painting Line Figure, and later became a member of the artist association Abstraction-Création.

Following the rise of the Nazi Party in 1933, Baumeister was banned as a degenerate artist, and was dismissed from his professorship. During the war, Baumeister wrote Das Unbekannte in der Kunst (The Unknown in Art), which was first published in 1947. He spent his time traveling and researching painting techniques and Oriental Art, which inspired him to create his Eidos pictures and Ideogrammes.

He resumed teaching 1946, when he accepted a post at the Kunstakademie in Stuttgart. His style continued to develop during this time. The mythological themes and somber-hued paintings created immediately after the war were slowly replaced by his series of Metaphysical Landscapes, which were lighter in color and more abstract. In the Sun Figures and Light Movements series, the ground of the picture, which the artist prepared with filler, was worked with combs, which gave the surface a three-dimensional appearance.

He died in 1955 in his studio in Stuttgart.

Today, his works can be found in institutions around the world, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Neue Galerie in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

Timeline

1889
Born in Stuttgart, Germany
1905–1907
Trained as decorative painter
1905–1911
Attended the Königlich Württembergische Akademie der Bildenden Künste (Royal Württemberg Academy of Fine Arts) in Stuttgart, Germany
1905–1912
Traveled to Lake Constance and Paris
First exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany
Befriended Oskar Schlemmer and Otto Meyer-Amden
1912–1913
Traveled to Amden, Switzerland
Participated in exhibitions including the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon (First German Autumn Salon) at the gallery Der Sturm in Berlin, Germany
1914–1918
Traveled to Antwerp, Amsterdam, London, and Paris
Served in World War I
1919
Studied under Adolf Hölzel
Co-founded the Üecht Group Stuttgart
Became member of the Berlin Novembergruppe (November Group)
Executed first stage design
Worked as a typographer
1922
First international publication in the art journal L'Esprit Nouveau, Paris, France
1923–1926
Exhibited in Germany and abroad
Visited the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany
Met Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee
1926
Married Margarete (Margrit) Oehm
1927
Offered professorship in typography, commercial graphics, and fabric printing at the Städtische Kunstgewerbeschule (Frankfurt School of Applied Arts) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Became member of neue werbegestalter (circle of new commercial designers)
1928
Moved to Frankfurt am Main, Germany
1929
Befriended Julius Bissier
Visited Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier, Ozenfant, Carl Einstein, Christian Zervos, and Roger Ginsburger in Paris, France
Became member of the artist association Cercle et Carré
1931
Became member of the artist group Abstraction-Création
First monograph by Will Grohmann published
Began exploration of prehistoric art
Invited by Madame de Mandrot to an artist gathering at the Château La Sarraz, Switzerland
1933
Dismissed without notice from his Frankfurter teaching position and denounced as a degenerate artist
1935
Traveled to Milan, Italy; met Carlo Carrà
1937–1938
Participated in the Constructivists Exhibition in Basel
Exhibited in the Entartete Kunst Munich
Stored paintings, gouaches, and drawings in the Kunsthalle Basel to keep them out of reach from the National Socialists
Traveled to Paris, France, met with Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier, and gallery owner Jeanne Bucher
Began work with the Wuppertal varnish factory, Dr. Kurt Herberts & Co., researching and writing on painting techniques and their historical origins
1941
Prohibited from painting and exhibiting, according to the decree of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (National Art Chamber)
Traveled to Verona, Venice, Bologna, and Florence
1946
Offered professorship at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Stuttgart, Germany
1947
His manuscript Das Unbekannte in der Kunst published in Stuttgart
Produced stage designs for Manuel de Falla's ballet Liebeszauber (Love Spell) at the Württemberg Staatstheater in Stuttgart, Germany
1948
Participated in the Venice Biennale and the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris, France
1949
Co-founded Gruppe der Gegenstandslosen (Group of Nonrepresentational Artists) (renamed Group ZEN 49 in January 1950)
Produces stage design for Egon Vietta's Monte Cassino, directed by Gustav Rudolf Sellner in Essen, Germany
1950
Participated in the Ersten Darmstädter Gespräch (First Darmstadt Dialogues)
Traveled to Spain and France, and participated in the Second International Art Congress of the Escuela de Altamira in Santillana del Mar
1951
Participated in the first Biennale in São Paulo, received Biennale Prize
1952
Participated in the Venice Biennale
1953
Produced stage design for Max Kommerell's Kasperlespiele für große Leute (Punch and Judy Show for Grown-Ups), directed by Gustav Rudolf Sellner
1955
Klimt-Honor, the Vienna Secession
Died while painting in his studio in Stuttgart, Germany

Exhibitions

2012
Winterthur Willi Baumeister 1889-1955. Kunstmuseum, Jan. 28-Apr. 22, 2012.
2012
Rovereto Willi Baumeister 1889-1955. Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto MART, July 24-Sept. 23, 2012.
2011
Palma de Mallorca Willi Baumeister 1889-1955. Fundación Juan March, June 1-Dec. 12, 2011.
2011
Stuttgart »Art is a Science [Kunst ist eine Wissenschaft]«. Hölzel, Baumeister and the Stuttgart Academy. Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, June 25-Oct. 23, 2011.
2010
Stuttgart, Willi Baumeister. Gilgamesch. Staatsgalerie, Dec. 11, 2010-May 1, 2011.
2007
Baumeister as Stage Designer (Baumeister als Bühnenbildner). Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Sep. 29-Dec. 9
2006
Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, Feb. 12-Mar. 26
2005–2006
Munster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Nov. 27 - Jan. 29
2005
Willi Baumeister: Figures and Signs (Figuren und Zeichen). Hamburg, Bucerius Kunstforum, Aug. 31-Oct. 30
2005
Willi Baumeister: The Frankfurt Years 1928-1933 (Die Frankfurter Jahre 1928-1933). Museum Giersch, Mar. 20-Jul. 10
2004–2005
Willi Baumeister - Karl Hofer: An Encounter of the Pictures (Begegnung der Bilder). Museum der bildenden Künste, Dec. 19 - Feb. 27
2003–2004
Willi Baumeister. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Sala de Exposiciones Fundación Caja Madrid, Oct. 30 - Feb. 22
2000
Saint-Etienne, Musée d'Art Moderne, Dec. 22, 1999-Mar. 26
1999
Willi Baumeister and France (Willi Baumeister et la France). Colmar, Musée d'Unterlinden, Sep. 4-Dec. 5
1997–1998
Germany Pictures: Art from a Divided Land (Deutschlandbilder - Kunst aus einem geteilten Land). Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Sep. 7 - Jan. 11
1997
The 1930s in Europe: The Hostile Time 1929-1939 (Années 30 en Europe - Le Temps menaçant 1929-1939). Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Feb. 20-May 25
1992
Berlin, Altes Museum, Mar. 4-May 31
1991–1992
Washington DC, International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Oct. 8 - Jan.12
1991
Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi-Germany / Entartete Kunst: Das Schicksal der Avantgarde im Nazideutschland. Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Feb. 17-May 12
1991
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Jun. 22-Sep. 8
1989
Willi Baumeister. Berlin, Nationalgalerie SMPK, Apr. 7-May 28
1989
Willi Baumeister: Typography and Advertising Design (Typographie und Reklamegestaltung). Stuttgart, Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Oct. 14-Nov. 17
1985
Contrasts of Form: Geometric Abstract Art 1910-1980 from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art including the Riklis Collection of McCrory Corporation. New York, The Museum of Modern Art
1984
Bordeaux, Galérie des Beaux-Arts, Jan. 23-Feb. 18
1984
Luxembourg, Musée de l'Etat, Oct. 5-Nov. 11
1983
Lyon, Musée des Beaux Arts, Mar./Apr.
1983
Strasbourg, Musée d'Art Moderne, Oct. 7-Nov. 27
1983
Genève, Musée Rath, Nov. 4, 1982-Jan. 16
1983
Gent, Museum van Heedendagse Kunst, Jan. 8-Feb. 20
1982
Helsinki, Ateneum, Jan. 29-Feb. 21
1982
Turku, Kunstmuseum, Mar./Apr
1982
Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum, May 14-Jun. 20
1982
Bruxelles, Musée d'Ixelles, Oct. 27-Dec. 19
1982
Léger et l'Esprit moderne / Léger and the modern Spirit. Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Mar. 7-Jun. 6
1982
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Jul. 9-Sep. 5
1981
Willi Baumeister 1889-1955: Paintings - Drawings (Gemälde - Zeichnungen). An exhibition of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungeny in Stuttgart. Høvikodden, Henie-Onstad Kunstsentret, Feb.-Mar.
1981
København, Statens Museum for Kunst, Apr. 4-May 3
1979
Willi Baumeister 1945-1955. An exhibition organized by the Württembergischer Kunstverein, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Mar. 28-May 6
1979
Schlemmer, Baumeister, Krause - Wuppertal 1937-1944. Wuppertal, Von der Heydt-Museum, May 20-Jul. 1
1978
Paris - Berlin, 1900-1933. Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Jul. 12-Nov. 6
1971
Willi Baumeister (1889-1955). Roma, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Mar. 13-Apr. 25
1969
Willi Baumeister 1889-1955: Drawings (Zeichnungen). Stuttgart, Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart, Mar. 1-Apr. 27
1967
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Jan. 6-Feb. 12
1966
Willi Baumeister: Paintings, Drawings (Peintures, Dessins). Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Jun. 11-Jul. 31
1966
Genève, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Sep. 16-Oct. 23
1965
Willi Baumeister: Paintings and Drawings (Gemälde und Zeichnungen). Köln, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Jan. 16-Mar. 14
1965
Karlsruhe, Badischer Kunstverein, Apr. 11-May 16
1964
documenta III - Painting, Sculpture (Malerei, Skulptur). Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Jun. 27-Oct. 5
1963
The Great Occasion of Art in the 20th Century (La Grande Aventure de l'Art du XXème Siècle). Strasbourg, Château des Rohan, Jun. 8-Sep. 15
1962
Art from 1900 to Today. Inaugural Exhibition (Kunst von 1900 bis heute. Eröffnungsausstellung). Wien, Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, Sep. 21-Nov. 4
1960
Willi Baumeister - E. W. Nay. Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Feb. 27-Mar. 27
1960
Pictures on exhibit. New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, November
1960
German Art Since 1945 (Arte alemã desde 1945). Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arte moderna do Rio de Janeiro, September
1960
XXX Venice Biennale (XXX Biennale di Venezia). Venezia
1959
documenta II - Art after 1945, Painting (Kunst nach 1945, Malerei). Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Jul. 11-Oct. 11
1958
50 Years of Modern Art: Brussels World and International Exposition (50 Ans d'Art Moderne: Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles). Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Apr. 17-Jul. 21
1958
Saint Louis, City Art Museum of St. Louis, Jan. 8-Feb. 24
1957
German Art of the Twentieth Century. New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Oct. 1-Dec. 8
1957
Painting from Germany Today (Pittura della Germania d'oggi): Baumeister, Bode, Geiger, Nay, Sonderborg, Thieler, Werner, Winter. Milano, Galleria del Milione, May
1956
Hundred years of German painting 1850-1950. London, The Tate Gallery
1956
Willi Baumeister. Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, May 17-Jun. 24
1956
Hamburg, Kunstverein in Hamburg, Jul. 7-Aug. 5
1956
Berlin, Haus am Waldsee, Sep. 18-Oct. 21
1955
Art of the 20th Century (Kunst des XX. Jahrhunderts). Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Jul. 15-Sep. 18
1955
Non-Figurative Paintings and Sculpture in Germany Today (Peintures et Sculptures non figuratives en Allemagne d'Aujourd'hui). Paris, Cercle Volney, Apr. 7-May 8 / Düsseldorf, Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, Jun. 25-Aug. 30
1954
Willi Baumeister. Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Jan. 23-Feb. 21 (solo)
1953–1954
Younger European Painters. New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dec. 2-Feb. 21
1952
Willi Baumeister. New York, Hacker Gallery, Mar. 31-Apr. 26 (solo)
1952
XXVI Venice Biennale (XXVI Biennale di Venezia). Venezia
1951
German Artist Union 1950: First Exhibition (Deutscher Künstlerbund 1950: Erste Ausstellung). Berlin, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Aug. 1-Oct. 1
1950
The Human Image in Our Time (Das Menschenbild in unserer Zeit). Neue Darmstädter Sezession. Exhibition summer 1950. Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe Ausstellungshalle, Jul. 15-Sep. 3
1950
ZEN 49: First Exhibition (Erste Ausstellung). Munich, Central Art Collecting Point, April
1949
Willi Baumeister. Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Nov.-Dec. (solo)
1948
New Realities - Third Salon (Réalités Nouvelles - 3ème Salon). Paris, Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Jul. 23-Aug. 30
1939
Willi Baumeister: Paintings and Watercolors (Toiles et Aquarelles). Paris, Galerie Jeanne Bucher, Jan. 20-30 (solo)
1938
Twentieth Century German Art. London, New Burlington Galleries, Jul. 8-Jul. 20
1937
Origins and Development of International Independent Art (Origines et développement de l'art international indépendant). Exhibition organized by the Musée du Jeu de Paume. Paris, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Jul. 30-Oct. 31
1935
Exhibits in Milan and Rome
1932–1933
Living German Art (Lebendige Deutsche Kunst). 3-part exhibition series. Organized by Paul Cassirer and Alfred Flechtheim. First Exhibition. Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, Dec. 10 - Mid-Jan
1931
Adolf Loos Buildings: Photographs, Plans, Text - Willi Baumeister, Paintings, Wall Pictures, Graphic Works (Adolf Loos, Bauten: Fotografien, Pläne, Text. - Willi Baumeister, Gemälde, Mauerbilder, Grafik). Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt Kunstverein, Jan. 31-Feb. 14
1930
Willi Baumeister. Paris, Galerie Editions Bonaparte, Apr. 5-Apr. 23 (solo)
1930
The XVII Venice Biennale (La XVII Biennale di Venezia). Venice
1927
Willi Baumeister. Paris, Galerie d'Art Contemporain, Jan. 18-Feb. 1 (solo)
1927
Great Berlin Art Exhibition (Große Berliner Kunstausstellung). Berlin, Landesausstellungsgebäude am Lehrter Bahnhof, May 7-Sep. 30
1927
Werkbund Exhibition The Dwelling (Die Wohnung). Stuttgart, Weißenhof Housing Settlement and other venues, Jul. 23-Oct. 9, Stuttgart
1926
Exhibits at the International Exhibition of Modern Art in New York
1924–1925
First General German Art Exhibition. Moscow, Saratov, Leningrad
1924
Joseph Pobereschsky, Lidija Dmitriewskaja, Kurt Schwitters, Willi Baumeister, 130th Exhibition (130. Ausstellung). Berlin, Gallery Der Sturm
1923
Adolf Hölzel and His Circle (Adolf Hölzel und sein Kreis). Stuttgart, Kunsthaus Schaller
1922
Berlin, Gallery Der Sturm, March
1920
Exhibits with Oskar Schlemmer and Kurt Schwitters in Dresden
1913
First German Autumn Salon
1913
Berlin, Gallery Der Sturm, Sep. 20-Dec. 1
1910
Stuttgart, Contemporary French Artists