Prohibited from exhibiting his works by the National Socialists and ostracized as “degenerate”, Willi Baumeister (1889–1955) left Stuttgart with his family in the spring of 1943. He found refuge in the town of Urach, where, during a phase of “inner emigration” he executed the sixty-four illustrations of Gilgamesh, mankind’s oldest epic poem. To enhance the archaic effect, Baumeister employed the frottage technique. The depictions’ backgrounds look like the walls of Uruk upon which the artist writes the story in a secret language. Many of the images moreover exhibit a kind of subtle, whimsical humour as well as an uncommonly rich pleasure taken in the invention of stories.
The Staatsgalerie's association of friends purchased the Gilgamesh series in 1980. Within the framework of the exhibition, a very special catalogue is being published in which Willi Baumeister’s illustrations enter into dialogue with the epic as a whole and the passages which inspired the artist are highlighted by graphic means.
In connection with the state Exhibition “Hans Holbein the Elder: The Grey Passion in its Time” presently taking place, the Epic of Gilgamesh can likewise be considered a kind of “passion” of the searching hero.