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Georg Baselitz Artworks

German Painter, Printmaker, and Sculptor

Georg Baselitz Photo
Movement: Neo-Expressionism

Born: January 23, 1938 - Deutschbaselitz, Germany

Artworks by Georg Baselitz

The below artworks are the most important by Georg Baselitz - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Die grobe Nacht im Eimer (Big Night down the Drain) (1963)

Die grobe Nacht im Eimer or Big Night Down the Drain depicts a young boy, perhaps a self-portrait of the artist, holding an exaggerated phallus, and is one of Baselitz's most controversial paintings. It was inspired by an article about the Irish playwright Brendan Behan, who was a notorious drunk, and we might compare it to the many other images Baselitz later produced which depict the figure of the artist. During his first solo exhibition in 1963, at a Berlin gallery, the painting was seized by the public prosecutor's office for "infringement of public morality." The shocking subject was intended to encourage an awakening that Baselitz thought was necessary in a post-war Germany lulled into amnesia about its recent past. "I proceed from a state of disharmony, from ugly things," he once said, and this confrontation with ugliness was something he believed was necessary to confront the violence of 20th century history.

Rebel (1965)

The Rebel exemplifies Baselitz's early portraits. Typical are the distorted proportions and exaggerated anatomical structure. The painting is among many he produced in the 1960s that concentrate on archetypal figures, such as 'heroes', 'rebels', and 'shepherds'. Here, the hero figure appears wounded, bloody, and limping, the body almost transparent as we are offered a glimpse of the viscous, ensnarled entrails. The image draws inspiration from Baselitz's childhood in Saxony, where he was exposed to the violence of WWII firsthand. It also draws on the imagery of German Romanticism, in which nature and the landscape was often used as a focus of patriotic and religious feeling.

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Der Wald auf dem Kopf (The Wood On Its Head) (1969)

Der Wald auf dem Kopf or The Wood on its Head is Baselitz's first inverted painting, in which he upends his subject matter to frustrate recognition of the objects depicted. Its motif, based on a picture by the early-19th-century painter Louis Ferdinand von Rayski, is similar to those found in his previous work, but here he makes them secondary to the physical properties of the medium. This radical approach troubles our ability to interpret the picture, leaving us wondering whether we are now looking at an abstraction or, simply, a conventional landscape upturned. We might read it as symptomatic of Baselitz's continuing attempts to find a different path from those that had been dominant when he emerged - the gestural abstraction of Paris and New York, and the Socialist Realism of the Eastern bloc.

Modell fur eine Skulptur (Model for a Sculpture) (1979-1980)

Modell fur eine Skulptur (Model for a Sculpture), Baselitz's first sculpture, typifies his crude treatment of wood in this medium –- a treatment analogous to his treatment of paint in his previous work. Similar in its primitivizing tendency to the work of artists such as Ludwig Kirchner, Baselitz found inspiration for the approach in African sculpture, believing it to offer a model for a more spontaneous expression of movement and human emotion. The work was first exhibited in the West German Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1980. Baselitz had originally intended to show paintings, but changed his mind at a late stage and sent only this sculpture. The work immediately sparked controversy, since the raised arm gesture of the figure is similar to the that of a Nazi salute; the red and black coloring of the figure has also been interpreted as a reference to the colors of the Third Reich. However, other sources for the sculpture suggest themselves: perhaps the Futurist bronze, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni; and Baselitz has also said that the work was inspired by an edible souvenir available at a market in Dresden. The gesture of the figure –- a figure bound to the ground by a block of wood -– might simply communicate frustration.

Head and Bottle (1982)

Head and Bottle best showcases Georg Baselitz's vigorous energy as a printmaker: the monumental print is 1000 x 485 mm in scale. Although the work depicts the bust of a man, through inversion the image is confused and hovers on the verge of abstraction. Each layer of color appears to be torn away from the surface, revealing the color underneath. It is similar in approach to some paintings that the artist produced around the same time, one depicting a man drinking from a glass, another showing a figure eating an orange. In a sense, the postures of the figures, and the objects they hold, simply accentuate the viewer's confusion when they appear upside-down, but some critics have also suggested that these everyday activities take on the character of a sacred ritual when they are depicted at such scale, and in such an unusual manner.

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Dresdner Frauen-Karla (1990)

Dresdner Frauen-Karla is one of a series of eleven monumental sculptural busts of women which commemorate the destruction of Dresden at the end of World War II. Baselitz grew up not far from the city, and remembered its destruction vividly. He wanted to pay homage to what he called the "rubble women," who he believed embodied the reconstruction efforts of a broken city. The large block of wood that forms the piece has been hacked away by a chainsaw to create the crude facial features. She appears to be deteriorating, symbolizing the weakened state of Dresden. The intense gaze, enormous proportion, and pulsating yellow hue exhibit a strong emotional presence. Similar in tone to the figures in his Heroes series, Karla represents a woman scarred by war, yet defiant.

Related Artists and Major Works

The Scream (1893)

The Scream (1893)

Artist: Edvard Munch (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

The significance of Munch's The Scream within the annals of modern art cannot be overstated. It stands among an exclusive group, including Van Gogh's Starry Night, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, and Matisse's Red Studio, comprising the quintessential works of modernist experiment and lasting innovation. The fluidity of Munch's lateral and vertical brushwork echoes the sky and clouds in Starry Night, yet one may also find the aesthetic elements of Fauvism, Expressionism, and perhaps even Surrealism arising from this same surface.

The setting of The Scream was suggested to the artist by a walk along a road overlooking the city of Oslo, apparently upon Munch's arrival at, or departure from, a mental hospital where his sister, Laura Catherine, had been interned. It is unknown whether the artist observed an actual person in anguish, but this seems unlikely; as Munch later recalled, "I was walking down the road with two friends when the sun set; suddenly, the sky turned as red as blood. I stopped and leaned against the fence ... shivering with fear. Then I heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature."

This is one of two painted versions of The Scream that Munch rendered around the turn of the 20th century; the other (c. 1910) is currently in the collections of the Munch Museum, Oslo. In addition to these painted versions, there is a version in pastel and a lithograph.

Street, Berlin (1913)

Street, Berlin (1913)

Artist: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

The vigorously painted Street, Berlin explores the figure of the city prostitute: chic streetwalkers who have angular, mask-like faces. The two women proudly walk down the busy, tilted street of cloaked men with more sullen expressions. Street, Berlin accentuates the hidden sensuality beneath the prostitutes' haughty fashion. The luxury and anxious energy in painting also serve as a commentary on a pre-World War I German culture, as Kirchner believed increasing political tensions further detached urban individuals from society. The Streetwalker series, of which this is a famous example, is one of the most admired areas of Kirchner's art. The models for the series may have been dancer Gerda Schilling and her sister Edna, who later became the artist's lover. He once described the two women as having "beautiful, architecturally structured, rigorously formed bodies", and his encounter with them undoubtedly influenced this series of figure paintings.

Grand Maitre of the Outsider (1947)

Artist: Jean Dubuffet (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

This picture is typical of the Hautes Pates series that Dubuffet exhibited to huge controversy in 1946. A thick, monochromatic surface serves as the ground for the crudely depicted figure, which is a parody of portraiture. Although Dubuffet undoubtedly intended the series to offend and his graphic style and thick, coarse impasto certainly did offend conventional tastes, it is worth noting that the color palette is not as jarring as it might be. Dubuffet was at least cautiously mindful of the need for success.

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