"I am rough, naïve and Gothic", said Georg Baselitz, born Hans-Georg Kern in 1938 in the village of Deutschbaselitz (near Dresden), whose name he took in 1961. Three adjectives that encapsulate his considerable paintings, sculptures and engravings, presented here in eleven equally powerful sequences.
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938), Fingermalerei - Adler [Finger Painting - Eagle], 1972, oil on canvas, 250 x 180 cm, Bayerische Staatsgemälde-sammlungen, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, on loan from the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds .
© Georg Baselitz, 2021 Photo BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-GP/[image BPK]
From one end of Gallery 1 to the other, from the bodiless self-portrait G.-Kopf (1960-1961), evoking one of the Expressions of Madness (1922) listed by psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn, to Wagon-lit mit Eisenbett (2019), an oil monotype depicting his wife Elke as a reclining specter, we find the same shadow, thick as the material he applied with his fingers in the 1970s. Baselitz's art is serious and dark, despite his vivid palette, and traumas and torments abound in his raging canvases—so large and physical they seem like the work of an ogre. And tributes, too, to Goya, Géricault, Courbet, Cranach, Munch, Dix and De Kooning. They are all present in his work; his "Remix" cycle, which opened in 2005, makes no secret of this heritage.
History has never passed his way, and yet it produces "new images" like the "Russian Paintings" (1998-2005): variations on the terrible memories of a youth permeated with Soviet propaganda. The uncategorizable Baselitz—deviant and now academician—fears nothing. Twice, his caricatures of the Führer caused a scandal: in 1963, in a West Berlin gallery, Die große Nacht im Eimer (The Big Night Down the Drain: 1962-1963) showed an adolescent Hitler holding a colossal virile member in his hands; in 1980, at the Venice Biennale, Model for a Sculpture (1979-1980) outlined an amputated dictator, his good arm mimicking the Nazi salute. Baselitz, who has been turning the world upside down since 1969, has no taboos. His approaching end haunts the last room, full of recent paintings with a liquid style.