Willi Baumeister


Painter, typographer, stage designer, printmaker. Born 22 January 1889 in Stuttgart. 1905-7: attended evening class in interior decoration at the Stuttgart Akademie der bildenden Künste: a teacher was Robert Poetzelberger . October 1907-September 1908: military service. 1908: studied at the Akademie, Stuttgart. 1911: worked in Paris, then returned to Stuttgart. 1912-13: lived in Amden, Switzerland; exhibited his work in Zurich and, in 1913, exhibited with Oskar Schlemmer , Stuttgart. 1914-18: military service, partly in Balkans and Caucasus. 1919: continued studies; worked as typographer, painter, stage designer (in Paris from 1923). 1926: writes article ‘Neue Typographie’ i n Werkbund journal Die Form. 1927: founder member ring ‘neue werbegestalter’ with Kurt Schwitters, Jan Tschichold, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart and others. Typographical work for Deutscher Werkbund exhibition ‘Die Wohnung’, Stuttgart, and for the Stuttgart publisher Wedekind. 1928-33: taught commercial art, typography and print at Städtische

Kunstgewerbeschule (later: Städel Kunstschule), Frankfurt a.M. 1930-35: designed covers for the journals Das Neue Form (later called die neue stadt), and die neue linie, succeeding Moholy-Nagy. December 1932: his last exhibition (at Kunsthandlung Cassirer) in Germany until the end of the war.

31 March 1933: declared ‘entarteter Maler’ (degenerate painter); lost his teaching position at the Frankfurt Kunstgewerbeschule (Städelschule). April 1933: retired to Stuttgart where he practiced as a typographer although he continued to paint. July 1937: five works in ‘Entartete Kunst’ (Degenerate art) exhibition, Munich; 51 of his works were eventually removed from German museums. 1938-44: research, technical studies in varnish/colour company Lackfabrik (lacquer factory) Kurt Herberts, Wuppertal; fellow-workers included Heinz Rasch and Oskar Schlemmer . Early 1943: moved to Urach, Lake Constance, because of the bombing in Stuttgart. 1943: began work on his book Das Unbekkante in der Kunst (The unknown in art). April 1945: fled from Urach to Horn bei Radolfzell. 1945: returned to Stuttgart and was again able to participate in exhibitions.

In 1950 Baumeister , ‘Germany’s most widely recognized abstract painter’, dictated an account of those days after March 1933 to Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt during the latter’s tour of duty with the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archive Section of the U.S. Military Government in Germany:

‘The dismissal was bad, but the social ostracism that followed was worse.

‘I now earned my living as a typographic designer, but cautiously, so as not to get too well known and not be too active. I continued to paint behind closed doors… .My pictures were removed from the state and municipal galleries of Germany. The ostracism increased step by step until 1937-8. An especially dangerous man was Count Baudissin , appointed by Hitler to the directorship of the magnificent Folkwang Museum in Essen. He demanded that ‘degenerate’ paintings be removed from the private collections as well. That was about the worst that could happen to the painters and it was most depressing. Soon after that Ernst Kirchner shot himself in Davos

‘After the war started, things became especially uncomfortable because one had to show that one was working. In 1938 my friend Heinz Resch , the architect, had recommended me to a paint and varnish factory in Wuppertal…They had a research institute for painting technique and now I worked for them on a monthly salary.

‘I had no public. No one knew that I continued to paint ., in a second-story room in utter isolation….

‘I sent [my friends], rather naïvely, a cartoon, cut from a U.S. newspaper, of an electric chair with Hitler on it. Suddenly I was summoned to Gestapo Headquarters. I was confronted by the Gestapo censor with my entire correspondence for the last year and a half. Thank God, Hitler in the electric chair was not among the intercepted letters…’. ( quoted in Lehmann-Haupt, 1954, pp. 85-7; see below.)

March 1946: appointed professor at the Stuttgart Kunstakademie. 1951: won prize for his work at Biennale, São Paulo; won first prize in Deutscher Künstlerbund 1951 (Berlin) poster competition. 1952-3: designed theatre sets, Darmstadt. Died 31 August 1955 in his studio in Stuttgart. Baumeister’s commercial design work (posters, letterheads, publicity) was produced mainly to the early 1930s; by the 1950s his graphic work was ‘fine’ art.

Writings by

    ‘Neue Typographie’, Die Form, 1926, v. 10, pp. 215-17 ‘Einiges über die Fläche’, Die Baugilde (BDA journal), 1925, H. 17 (repr. in Werner Gräff, Willi Baumeister, Stuttgart: Wedekind, 1928, pp. 62-3)
  • Anfänge der Malerei (with Oskar Schlemmer), 1941 (no authors credited)
  • Das Unbekannte in der Kunst, Stuttgart: Curt Schwab, 1947, Cologne, 1968
  • ‘Motiv Stoff Inhalt der heutigen Kunst’, in Domnick, 1947 (see below)
  • ‘Warum ich gegenstandlos male’, Die Kunst und Das schöne Heim, June 1950, pp. 325-6 (condensed from Kunst- und Denkmalpflege, Nov. 1949)
  • writings and photo, Das Kunstwerk, 1950, VIII/IX, pp. 20, 23-4, 26, 59
  • ‘Leser und Illustration’, in WK, 1996, pp. 65-6.

Writings about

  • Graphik, Dec. 1968, p. 10 (Bosch ad, 1925)
  • W. Grohmann, Willi Baumeister, Leben und Werk, Cologne, 1963 (includes bibliography)
  • Comprehensive references for Baumeister’s work, writings, exhibitions, bibliography are Grohmann, 1952, Reinhardt, 1989, the Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1989 and Boehm, 1995. Another reference is Claude Marks, World Artists 1950-1980, New York: Wilson, 1984.
  • review of Spielmann/Baumeister, in Print Quarterly, June 2006, pp. 211-13
  • 1928-49: Jan Tschichold, ‘Fotografie und Typografie’, Die Form, 1928, v. 5, pp. 140-50, esp. pp. 143, 144
  • Werner Gräff, Willi Baumeister, Stuttgart: Wedekind, 1928
  • ‘Willy Baumeister’ (rev. of exh.), Das Kunstblatt, 1929, pp. 122-3
  • Baumeister: Sport und Maschine, Berlin: Flechtheim Gallery, 1929
  • Willi Wolfradt, ‘Willi Baumeister’, Der Cicerone, 1929, pp. 287-90
  • Heinz and Bodo Rasch, Gefesselter Blick, Stuttgart: Zaugg, 1930, pp. 19-22 (repr. Baden, Switzerland: Müller, 1996)
  • Hans Hildebrandt, ‘Willi Baumeister’, pp. 65-72, in Ottomar Domnick, Die schöpferischen Kräfte in der abstrakten Malerei, Bergen: Müller & Kiepenheuer, 1947
  • Egon Vicke, review of WB’s Das Unbekkante in der Kunst, in Das Kunstwerk, 1948, v. 5/6, p. 84
  • 1950-54: Günther W. Mühle, ‘Vom psychologischen Standpunkt aus’, Das Kunstwerk, 1950, VIII/IX, pp. 57-9 (comparison of work with that of Max Ernst )
  • Will Grohmann, Willi Baumeister, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1952 (includes bibliography)
  • Egon Vietta, ‘Willi Baumeisters Monaru-Bilder’, Das Kunstwerk, 1953, v. 3/4, pp. 106, 106a
  • Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, Art under a dictatorship, New York: Oxford U.P., 1954
  • review of W. Grohmann’s Willi Baumeister, in Das Kunstwerk, 1954, v. 1, p. 59 E.V., ‘Dient der Willi-Baumeister-Film der abstrakten Kunst?’, Das Kunstwerk, 1954, v. 4, p. 93 (film by W. Grohmann )
  • John A. Thwaites, ‘Germany. Willi Baumeister’, Art Digest, 1 April 1954, pp. 12, 27
  • G.H. Hamilton, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880 to 1940, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967, pp. 224-5
  • Eugen Keuerleber (intro.), Willi Baumeister, Zeichnungen (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Galerie der Stadt, 1969
  • Heinz Spielmann, Ungedruckte Illustrationen von Willi Baumeister, Neu-Isenburg: Tiessen, 1969
  • 1970-84: G. Adriani, Willi Baumeister, Dokumente, Texte, Gemälde, Cologne, 1971
  • Heinz Spielmann, Willi Baumeister, das graphische Werk, Hamburg, 1972
  • Willi Baumeister Zeichnungen und Gouachen, Tübingen: Kunsthalle, 1975
  • Willi Baumeister 1945-1955 (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein, 1979
  • Willi Baumeister 1889-1945 (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, 1981
  • Rüdiger Robert Beer, ‘Willi Baumeisters Shakespeare-Einhorn’, Graphische Kunst, 17/2, 1981, p. 48
  • 1985-9: Abstrakte Maler der inneren Emigration (exh. cat.), Mainz: Landesmuseum, 1985
  • Dietmar J. Ponert, Willi Baumeister, Werkverzeichnis der Zeichnungen, Gouachen und Collagen, Cologne, 1988
  • Felicitas Karg-Baumeister and others, Willi Baumeister (exh. cat.), Berlin: Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen, 1989 (includes biography, bibliography)
  • Ulrike Gauss and others, Willi Baumeister, Zeichnungen, Gouachen, Collagen (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Cantz, 1989
  • Helmut Herbst, ‘Eine Chance vertan? Willi Baumeisters Zeichnungen, Gouachen und Collagen in der Staatsgalerie Stuttgart’, Aus dem Antiquariat, 1989, 7, pp. A258-61
  • Brigitte Reinhardt and others, Willi Baumeister zum 100. Geburtstag (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Galerie der Stadt, and Cantz, 1989 (3 vols .: Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Die Serigraphien)
  • Wolfgang Kermer (ed.), Willi Baumeister, Typographie und Werbegestaltung (exh. cat.), Stuttgart: Cantz, 1989
  • D.J. Ponert, with F. Karg-Baumeister, Willi Baumeister, Cologne: DuMont, 1989
  • Andreas Hüneke, ‘Zum 100. Geburtstag Willi Baumeister’, Bildende Kunst, 1989, 3, pp. 17-21
  • 1990-present: Volker Rattemeyer, Dietrich Helms and others, Ring ‘neue werbegestalter’. Amsterdamer Ausstellung von 1931 (additional on title page: ‘“Typographie kann unter Umständen Kunst sein”’ ) (exh. cat.), Wiesbaden: Museum Wiesbaden, 1990
  • Ilse Unruh, ‘Zwei Ausstellungen zur “Neuen Typographie” der zwanziger Jahre: Kurt Schwitters und Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart in Wiesbaden – Willi Baumeister in Frankfurt am Main’, Aus dem Antiquariat, 1990, 6, pp. A257-60 Peter von Kornatzki, ‘Kunst. Und Design. Bemerkungen aus Anlass einer aufregenden Dokumentation: “Willi Baumeister – Typographie und Reklamegestaltung”’, Zeitschrift für Gestaltung, H. 129, 1, 1990, pp. 55-8 (repr. in WK, 1996, pp. 94-6)
  • SB, 1991, esp. pp. 200-201
  • HAP Grieshaber, ‘Ein Bilderbogen für Willi Baumeister’, Marginalien, 1994/1
  • Gottfried Boehm, Willi Baumeister, Stuttgart: Hatje, 1995
  • Michael Semff, ed., Willi Baumeister – Zeichnungen, Stuttgart: Hatje, 1996
  • WK, 1996, esp. pp. 167-73
  • JA, 2000, esp. pp. 156-62
  • D.J. Ponert and F. Karg-Baumeister, Willi Baumeister. Werkverzeichnis der Zeichnungen, Gouachen und Collagen, Cologne 2003 (new ed.?)
  • Willi Baumeister, Formen, Bremen/Berlin: Buchhandel Wolfgang Werner, 2003
  • Helmut Friedel, T. Llorens, Willi Baumeister (exh. cat.), Munich: Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus / Madrid: Sala de Expositiones Fundación Caja Madrid, 2004 (includes biography)
  • Willi Baumeister/Karl Hofer (exh. cat.), Leipzig, 2004
  • Willi Baumeister/Kurt Rehm (exh. cat.), Bochum, 2004
  • Heinz Spielmann, Felicitas Baumeister, Willi Baumeister: Werkkatalog der Druckgraphik, Stuttgart: Cantz, 2005
  • Christopher Wilk (ed.), Modernism, London: V&A, 2006 (h/b, p/b).
  • Eberhard Hölscher, ‘Deutscher Künstlerbund Berlin’ (poster competition), Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., Oct. 1951, pp. 32-5
  • 1955-69: Erich Pfeiffer-Belli, ‘The exhibition programmes of the German Council of Art’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., March 1959, pp. 48-53 (esp. pp. 50, 51)
  • Karl J. Steinorth, ‘“Film und Foto”, Stuttgart 1929’, novum, Oct. 1975, pp. 30-36, 41-5
  • Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Munich/Leipzig: K.G. Saur Verlag, 1990-., 1993
  • Friedrich Friedl, Nicolaus Ott, Bernard Stein, Typography – when/who/how, Cologne: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1998., 1998


  • Frankfurt a.M., 1953
  • Württembergischer Kunstverein, 1954
  • Galerie von Garvens, Hannover, 1922
  • Galerie d’Art contemporain, Paris, 1925
  • Flechtheim, Berlin, 1929
  • Kunstverein, Frankfurt, 1932
  • New Burlington Galleries (in ‘20 th century German art’), London, 1938, and Guggenheim Jeune, London, 1938
  • Galerie Günther Franke, Munich, 1947
  • Berne, 1947
  • Stuttgart, 1947
  • Städtisches Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe (Wuppertal-Elberfeld), 1947
  • Kunstkabinett Hanna Bekker vom Rath, Frankfurt a.M., 1949
  • Hacker Gallery, New York, 1952 (first U.S. exh.)
  • Galerie Günther Franke, Munich, 1954, 1958
  • Vienna, 1954 (with Wilhelm Loth )
  • documenta, Kassel, 1955 (7 items)
  • Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover, 1955/6
  • Kunsthalle, Basle, 1960
  • Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart, 1969
  • Hutton Gallery, New York, 1978
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basle, 1978
  • Stuttgart, 1979
  • Strassburg, 1983
  • Landesmuseum, Mainz, 1985
  • Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1989 (then to Museum Fridericianum Kassel, 1989 and Kunstmuseum Bern, 1990)
  • Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1989
  • Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Frankfurt a.M., 1990
  • Galerie Vömel, Düsseldorf, 1990
  • Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, and Galerie der Stadt, Stuttgart, 1990
  • Landesmuseum, Wiesbaden, 1990 (ring ‘neue Werbegestalter’
  • then to Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich)
  • Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden, Dec. 1995-Feb. 1996
  • Neue Pinakothek, Munich, 1996
  • Galerie Dorn, Stuttgart, 1998
  • Schloss Dätzingen, Grafenau/Württ., 1999
  • Sala de Expositiones Fundación Caja Madrid, Madrid, Oct. 2003-Feb. 2004, and Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2004
  • Leipzig, 2004.


  • Archiv Baumeister, Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.