back to overview

Paul Baum

* 1859 – † 1932

Überschwemmung bei Hyères (Flooding near Hyères), ca. 1909

Oil on canvas

Signed at bottom left: Paul Baum

Stamp of Lefranc on the stretcher on verso

Paul Baum began his artistic career as a flower painter at the porcelain manufactory in his native Meissen. He then spent a year at the Dresden academy before switching to the Weimar Kunstschule in 1878. The landscapes that Baum painted throughout his nine years in Weimar and the following two years spent among the plein-air painters of Dachau are all dominated by local colour. Also evident in these works is his growing penchant for rural motifs that was to become the common thread of his whole oeuvre.1
The year 1890 was a turning-point in the painter’s life. His trip to Paris in March of that year gave him his first glimpse of the works of Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley, an experience that would soon prompt him to leave Dachau and move to Knokke in western Flanders, then a favourite summer haunt of the Impressionists. In Knokke Baum was able to watch the French artists he so admired at work and to paint some impressionistic paintings of his own, for which the landscapes of Flanders were to supply motifs and material in abundance in the coming years.2 Especially important to Baum during this period was his closeness to Pissarro, whom he knew personally, and who gave him artistic advice. He was especially fascinated by the palpable influence of the pointillist method that Pissarro had temporarily adopted in the mid-1880s.3 Towards the end of the century, Baum’s own intensive engagement with the works of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac4 led him, too, to devote himself exclusively to pointillism. His paintings of Constantinople of 1900/1901,5 in which he sized his dots in proportion to the size of the canvas, are excellent examples of his uncompromising embrace of this new technique.6

That the artist did not become stuck in this strict application of pointillism is borne out by the work under discussion here, which was probably painted between 1909 and 1910 during his stay in Hyères in southern France.7 Here, harmoniously pointillist areas alternate with areas of very visible brushwork. The view over an expanse of water shot through with reeds is dominated by the tree rising up in the right foreground. The foreground vegetation, rendered in bold yellow, orange, and brown hues, enters into a veritable symbiosis with the reflections in the water, yet stands apart from the water itself, which is reproduced with short, horizontal strokes of blue. Scanning this blue surface pierced by rows of vertical strokes representing clumps of reeds, our gaze eventually leaps over the yellow sea of rushes and alights on the opposite shore. While this is presented as a by and large monochrone band of pink, the woods behind it are a seething mass of vertical and diagonal brushstrokes in an array of bright colours. Filling the far distance are the soft blues and mauves of the foothills of the Massif des Maures dotted with isolated farm buildings. The largely blue sky with cumulus clouds sailing by is painted with innumerable brushstrokes of various shapes and sizes, lending it a dynamic all its own.

  1. Hitzeroth, Wolfram, Paul Baum. (1859–1932) Ein Leben als Landschaftsmaler, Marburg 1988, p. 78.

  2. Ibid. p. 37.

  3. Exh. cat. Camille Pissarro, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1999, Ostfildern-Ruit 1999, p. 21

  4. His personal acquaintance with the Belgian pointillist Théo van Rysselberghe also warrants a mention here.

  5. Cf. Hitzeroth, Wolfram, Paul Baum. (1859–1932) Ein Leben als Landschaftsmaler, Marburg 1988, WVZ No. F 165, p. 219 (fig.).

  6. Ibid, p. 380.

  7. On his first visit to southern France Baum produced only coloured prints and did not paint any oils at all. The dating of the painting to the period 1909–1910 also rests on a stylistic comparison with the works from Hyères dated 1909 (cf. WVZ No. F214 and F 215).

back to overview