Willi Baumeister

Untitled (Suspended Lines I)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Willi Baumeister 1889–1955
Original title
Ohne Titel (Linien schwebend I)
Lithograph on paper
Image: 260 × 208 mm
Transferred from the Library 1987

Catalogue entry

P08214 Untitled (Suspended Lines I) 1953

Ohne Titel (Linien schwebend I)
Lithograph 260 × 208 (10 1/4 × 8 1/8) on wove paper, same size; printed by Erich Mönch; inset in Edouard Jaguer (ed.), Phases, vol.1, published by Paul Facchetti, Paris, 1954; not separately editioned
Printed inscription ‘Baumeister 53’ b.r.
Transferred from the Library 1987
Lit: Heinz Spielmann, Willi Baumeister: Das graphische Werk, Hamburg 1972, p.152, no.180, repr.

P08214 is an abstract image composed of mainly horizontal, but also vertical and diagonal lines of varying thickness, density and length, printed in black on white paper. It belongs to a group of four lithographs and nine paintings made between 1951 and 1953. All consist of loose clusters of freely-drawn, non-descriptive lines. The four lithographs are illustrated in Spielmann 1972, pp.152–3, nos.179–81. The related paintings are reproduced in Will Grohmann's catalogue raisonné, Willi Baumeister: Life and Work, 1966, pp.328–9, nos.1369–77. P 08214 is closest in composition to the painting ‘Suspended Lines II’, 1953 (repr. ibid., p.328, no.1370). Grohmann grouped the nine paintings under the heading ‘Line Worlds 1950–1955’, drawing attention to the relationship between these line paintings of the early 1950s and a group of line paintings Baumeister made between 1940 and 1942 (repr. Grohmann 1966, p.291, nos.607–26).

The emphasis on abstract line in P08214 and in the related paintings and prints is untypical of Baumeister's work, which after the early 1930s consisted primarily of biomorphic forms and figures with free-floating, shaded or coloured, areas. Grohmann (ibid., p.122) interpreted Baumeister's ‘Line World’ works in the following manner;

They are printlike paintings in black and white or colours, which with the utmost economy but unbelievable sensibility render the imponderable quality of a philosphical attitude or the echo of an intellectual adventure. The painters of the Sung period used to meditate on the tao before starting to work; Baumeister meditated on the mystery of a profound experience before taking a brush in hand. Even his friends could not understand his pictures when he was painting them; today we see them as pointers to life's last chapter.

Baumeister made prints from about 1919 until his death. In the last five years of his life, his lithographic production was outnumbered by serigraphs, a technique he first used in 1950. Between 1950 and 1955 he made a total of fifty-eight serigraphs, compared to twenty-nine lithographs and four etchings. Baumeister collaborated with the printmaker Erich Mönch, a lecturer in lithographic techniques at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, on the lithographs he made after 1951, including P08214 (see Spielmann 1972, p.114). With the exception of three lithographs printed in Paris, all of Baumeister's post-1952 lithographs were made in his home town of Stuttgart. Most, including P08214, were made using transfer lithographic paper. P08214 was originally inserted in the first issue of the periodical Phases, published in 1954, along with a lithograph by Karl Otto Götz (see entry on P08216). Phases was a journal dedicated to new art and literature and frequently included coverage of the postwar generation of German informel artists, such as Buchheister, Greis, Schultze and Götz, as well as older artists such as Baumeister. Karl Otto Götz, who had known Baumeister since the late 1940s, was the journal's German correspondant and it is probable that Baumeister's contribution to the first issue of Phases was suggested by him. The compiler has been unable to confirm why this particular print was selected for inclusion in Phases and, as far as the compiler could ascertain, P08214 was the only print by Baumeister to be inserted in the journal.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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