Rosalinde Baumgartner: Unique art

Rosalinde Baumgartner was always interested in art, even as a little girl in Austria and Switzerland.

“My mother was always painting when I was growing up,” said Baumgartner. “It always has been my main interest.”

But it was not until she came to Guelph many years later that sketching, painting, sculpting and printmaking started to take up a large chunk of her time.

“I sort of drifted into it until it became more and more serious,” she said.

Baumgartner, the youngest of five children, was born in Austria in 1936 to a Swiss father and Austrian mother.

During the Second World War her father was deported from Austria due to his Swiss citizenship as well as his choice of radio programs, many of which were frowned upon in the country, at the time considered a unified part of Nazi Germany.

So the family moved to Switzerland and in the years following the war, divided time evenly between Austria and Switzerland, where she still has relatives to this day.

Baumgartner met her husband, Norbert Baumgartner, in Austria and the couple married in Switzerland in 1958. It was her husband who initially had the idea to move to Canada.

“I always dreamed of coming to North America,” said Norbert, who arrived on his own in Toronto in 1959.

Baumgartner came one year later and the couple spent about two years in Toronto before moving to Guelph after her husband enrolled at the University of Guelph to study agriculture and later to teach.

She worked a few jobs in Guelph, including as a waitress and a labourer at Hammond Manufacturing, but art was always on her mind.

At the time the couple and their three sons shared a home with a man who was involved in the local arts scene, which piqued Baumgartner’s interest.

“It’s a matter of connecting with the right people,” she said of becoming established in the arts community. “That’s how you manage to keep in practice.”

Soon she joined sketching groups in the city and in the 1970s she began taking courses part time at the university, on the way to earning a degree in fine arts.

Always fascinated with the human form, Baumgartner’s painting also focused on landscapes and floral pieces (mostly oil on canvas), particularly after they moved in 1979 to their current home, a farm on County Road 26 in former Erin township, near the border of Guelph-Eramosa.

Longtime peer and current vice chair of the Elora Arts Council (EAC) Beverley Cairns said Baumgartner is renowned for the “great sense of volume” she brings to her work.

In the 2005 EAC book Profiles II, which featured articles on dozens of local artists, Cairns eloquently explained how Baumgartner also personalizes her art.

“Over the years her interest developed into a voice: a means of communicating her deep love of visual beauty,” Cairns wrote. “This was augmented by the landscapes of country life when the Baumgartner family moved to a farm … ”

In the 30-plus years since the move to that farm in west Erin, Baumgartner’s style and subject matter has indeed evolved, though she continues to embrace the opportunity to work with live models.

In recent years, as her sons grew older – they are now living in Guelph, Ottawa and Ajax – Baumgartner found more time to explore printmaking and sculpting.

So much so that she has taught the former at Springbank Art Centre in Mississauga, and has also participated in a mentor’s group for the latter at the Burlington Arts Centre.

“Rosalinde’s an extremely genial and generous person who’s always willing to help others learn,” said Cairns.

Baumgartner also boasts various solo, selected and juried exhibits –  plus several awards – at venues in Wellington County, throughout southern Ontario and even one in Switzerland.

Most recently, she was selected to Visual Arts Mississauga’s 34th annual Juried Show of Fine Art, which is running until Feb. 25.

Locally, Baumgartner is known as one of the founders of the Hills of Erin Studio Tour. About 25 years ago, she began meeting with a group of like-minded artists living in and around Hillsburgh to discuss the formation of a tour of local art studios.

“I really liked the idea of showing people what we’re doing,” said Baumgartner. “It’s definitely an advantage to have people come to your studio rather than bring [your art] somewhere else.”

Baumgartner joined Jim Reid, Stan Hall, Carol Tyler, and Monica and Dave Schut on the first Hills of Erin Studio Tour in May 1988. Since that time the tour has grown immensely in size and scope, and in 2006 the tour won the artisan of the year award from the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association.

Baumgartner has not participated in the tour for a couple of years, but she relayed a strong desire to once again take part in the event she helped create.

Now 75 and a grandmother of six, she opened Artevoke, a studio of her own, next to the family’s home in the late 1990s.

At one time, Baumgartner and her husband also ran a bed and breakfast out of the building, but for over a decade it has been solely dedicated to her art work.

“It overflows into the house,” she said with a laugh of the studio’s contents.

When asked about artistic influences, Baumgartner mentions several, but first and foremost is Henri Matisse, best known as a painter but also a sculptor, printmaker and drawer.

Over the years she has worked with the Corbett Gray studio in Elora and St. Michael’s Print Shop in Newfoundland. She also has studied lithography with Otis Tamasauskas and colour lithography at Open Studio in Toronto. She puts much of her training to use on manual printing press in her studio.

She loves working on her art in a rural setting and, like her husband, does not for a minute regret coming to North America.

“We totally are Canadian, even though we didn’t lose our accents,” Baumgartner said with a grin. “We love it here … I’d never go back [to Europe] to stay.”

She particularly appreciated the educational opportunities moving to Canada provided.

“At that time, for us, it was really great,” she said.

She explained attending university in Austria or Switzerland would have been “impossible” for her and her husband, because they each had only eight years of primary schooling there.

In Canada they were able to take core requirement courses in subjects like math and English and then enroll in university. But those opportunities did not exist in their former homeland.

Baumgartner’s artistic development is ongoing to this day, as she continues to paint regularly and also attend a sculpting group in Guelph once per week, as well as a sketching group in Eden Mills.

“The groups are a great way for artists to connect,” she said.

She also regularly makes exhibition proposals to various shows and galleries.

“It’s a lot of work actually to do it,” she said.

But it’s also very enjoyable, she stressed. Baumgartner particularly loves how working in a variety of media allows her to keeps things fresh.

“You go really intense in one direction, then you need to take a break and do nothing or change it up,” she said.

Baumgartner’s diverse portfolio also seems to be well received among her peers and clients.

“She’s one of those people who seem to be able to encompass all different types of media … she likes to try new things,” said Cairns.

Baumgartner seems flattered by any appreciation for her art and she admits it can be hard to predict how each piece will be received by different people.

“Art is very personal … everyone likes something different,” she said.

Her assessment unwittingly reveals perhaps the biggest reason for her popularity as an artist: she continually provides something different.

For more information on Baumgartner or a sample of her work, visit To book a tour of her studio call 519-855-6320.