ARTISTS

Georg Baselitz


Georg Baselitz (*1938)

Born Hans-Georg Kern in 1938, Georg Baselitz grew up in Saxony, an area that later became the GDR. He studied painting at the Academy of Art in East Berlin (1956) but he was expelled after two terms for ‘political immaturity’. He then applied to study at the Academy in West Berlin and moved there in 1957, completing his studies in 1962. During this period he adopted the surname Baselitz, refl ecting his birthplace Deutschbaselitz.
 
In searching for alternatives to the strongly narrative art of Social Realism and abstract painting, he became interested in art considered to be outside of the mainstream of Modernism and in imagery that was rooted in the Art Brut. He was also inspired by Existentialist art and literature, by Dada and Surrealism.
In 1963 Baselitz’s fi rst solo exhibition at Galerie Werner & Katz, Berlin, caused a public scandal and two paintings were confi scated by the German authorities who claimed that they were publicly indecent.
 
After a scholarship in Florence in 1965, Baselitz embarked on a series of paintings depicting monumental male figures, which he described as Rebels, Shepherds or ‘New Types’. Viewed within the Romantic tradition, they are often regarded as outsiders associated with the fi gure of the artist. These paintings are often referred to as the ‘Hero’ series. Baselitz depicted his fi gures within mythical, ruined landscapes, each with symbolic attributes to identify their individual characters, often with exaggerated and exposed sexual organs. The lone fi gure as a prophet or saint also alludes to soldiers returning home from WWII.
 
The ‘Fracture’ paintings of the late 1960s revealed Baselitz’s keen interest in forests, rural landscapes, woodsmen and hunters. The works were divided into segments so that the imagery could be reorganised pictorially. In 1969, he decided to create and display work upside down in order to re-focus the viewer on the painterly merits of the pictures.
 
By attempting to overcome the representational, content-driven character of his earlier work, this also enabled him to emphasise the abstract qualities of the composition.
Since the early 1980s he has made monumental sculptures of fi gures and heads with rudimentary and deliberately irregular forms. He uses wood because “it enables avoidance of any attractiveness of form, any craft or elegance … objects in wood are unique, simple, unpretentious”. Having spent most of the early 1970s apparently working outside the mainstream, by the 1980s he had established an international reputation (cemented by exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale in 1980 and ‘A New Spirit in Painting’ in 1981). During the 1980s and early 1990s, the canvases became denser and more heavily worked, and subject matter returned to play a greater role. He began introducing motifs from Slavic folk art, sometimes combining motifs with fi gures of family members taken from old photographs. The subjects of German Romanticism and Socialist Realism inspired his more recent work.
 
In 2005 Baselitz introduced the ‘Remix’ in his work, in which he has returned to key phases of his own art history and made new versions of his work, which have allowed him to revisit and excavate the past, pushing his own painterly vocabulary to create original new works.
 
He lives and works in Germany and Italy.

 

 

Exhibitions and Distinctions (Selection)

 

2009
Frieder Burda Museum, Baden-Baden

 

2008—2009
Museum der Moderne, Salzburg

 

2007
Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch-Hall

 

2006
Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

2004
Retrospective at Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek. Remix works at the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

 

2003
Praemium Imperiale Award, Tokyo. Retrospective at Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic Germany, Bonn. Laureate of the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence

 

2000
Lower-Saxon State Award. Large exhibition at the Albertina,Vienna

 

1999
Honorary professorship at the Academy of Fine Arts, Krakow

 

1996
Honorary professorship at Royal Academy of Arts in London Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

 

1995
Large Retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, Hirschhorn Museum and Sculptures Garden, Washington and at Nationalgalerie, Berlin

 

1990
Retrospective at the Kunsthaus Zürich and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf

 

1986
Awarded Kaiserring (Emperor’s Ring) by the city of Goslar. Art Prize of the Norddeutsche Landesbank, Hannover

 

1983—1988
(also from 1992-2003) professorship at the Berlin Academy of Arts

 

1980
Shows his first sculptures at the German Pavillon of the Venice Biennale

 

1978
Professorship at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe

 

1976
Retrospectives at the Kunsthalle Bern, the Staatsgalerie of Modern Art in Munich and the Kunsthalle Köln

 

1970
First museum exhibition in the Kupferstichkabinett, Museum of Arts, Basel

 

1969
First motif reversal with Der Wald auf dem Kopf (upside-down forest)

 

1963
First exhibition in Werner & Katz gallery, Berlin and confiscation of his work Die große Nacht im Eimer (the big night down the drain) by the public prosecutor’s office, on grounds of sexual lewdness

 

 

Literature (Selection)

 

Baselitz Remix, ed. by Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, 2006

 

Georg Baselitz—Paintings 1962-2001, ed. by Detlev Gretenkort, Milan, 2002

 

Georg Baselitz, Manifeste und Texte zur Kunst 1966—2000, Bern 2001

 

Georg Baselitz, ed. by Galerie Beyeler, Basel, 1992

 

Georg Baselitz, Andreas Frantzke, München, 1988

 

Baselitz—Peintre-Graveur, Werkverzeichnis der Druckgraphik, Fred Jahn, Johannes Gachnang,Vol. I: 1963—1974,Vol. 2: 1974—1982, Basel, Berlin 1983, 1987