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Georg Baselitz (born January
23, 1938) is a German painter who studied in the former East Germany,
before moving to what was then the country of West Germany. Baselitz's
style is interpreted by the Northern American as
Neo-Expressionist, but from a European perspective, it is more seen as
His career was kick-started in the 1960s after police action against
one of his paintings, (Die große Nacht im Eimer), because of its
provocative, offending sexual nature.
Baselitz is one of the world's best-selling living artists. He is a
professor at the renowned Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.
Baselitz was born 23 January 1938 as Hans-Georg Kern in
Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, in what was later to be East Germany. His
father was an elementary-school teacher and the family lived in the
local schoolhouse. Baselitz's first encountered art in albums of
nineteenth-century pencil drawings in the school library. He also
assisted nature photographer Helmut Drechsler on occasional
In his early life, his family moved to the county town of Kamenz.
Baselitz attended the local school, in the assembly hall of which
hangs a reproduction of the 1859 painting Wermsdorfer Wald by
Louis-Ferdinand von Rayski. He read the writings of Jakob Böhme. At
the ages of 14 and 15, he painted portraits, religious subjects, still
lifes and landscapes, some in a futuristic style. In 1955, he applied
to study at the Kunstakademie in Dresden but was rejected. In 1956, he
passed the entrance exam to study forestry at the Forstschule in
Taranth and successfully applied to study at the Hochschule für
bildende und angewandte Kunst in East Berlin. He studied painting
under professors Walter Womacka and Herbert Behrens-Hangler, and
befriended Peter Graf and Ralf Winkler (later known as A. R. Penck).
After two semesters, he was expelled for "sociopolitical immaturity."
The next year he successfully applied for a place at West Berlin's
Hochschule der Künste and continued his studies in the class of
Professor Hann Trier. He immersed himself in the theories of
Ernst-Wilhelm Nay, Wassily Kandinsky and Kasimir Malevich. During this
time he became friends with Eugen Schönebeck and Benjamin Katz.
In 1958, after moving from East Berlin to West Berlin, Baselitz met
his future wife, Elke Kretzschmar. He also produced his first original
works in a distinct style of his own, among them the imaginary
portraits "Uncle Bernhard"/ "Onkel Bernhard." In the same year, he
started work on the "Rayski-Head"/ "Rayski-Kopf" series. In 1961, he
adopted the name Georg Baselitz in a tribute to his home town. In the
same year, he is admitted to the Hann Trier master class. In 1962, he
married Elke Kretzschmar and they had a son named Daniel. He also
completed his studies at the Akademie. In 1963, Baselitz's first solo
exhibition at Galerie Werner & Katz, Berlin, caused a public scandal.
Two of the pictures, "The Big Night Down The Drain"/ "Die große Nacht
im Eimer" (1962/63) and the "Naked Man"/ "Nackter Mann" (1962), are
seized by the public prosecutor. The ensuing court case did not end
Baselitz spent the spring of 1964 at Schloß Wolfsburg and produced his
first etchings in the printing shop there, which were exhibited later
that year. The next year, he won a six-month scholarship to study at
the Villa Romana in Florence. While there, he studied Mannerist
graphics and produced the "Animal Piece"/ "Tierstück" pictures. After
returning to WeAst Berlin, he worked until 1966 on the "Heroes"/ "Helden"
group, which includes the large-format composition "The Great
Friends"/ "Die großen Freunde." In 1966, his second son, Anton, was
born, and the family moved to Osthofen, near Worms. Through early
1969, he produced further large-format "Foresters"/ "Waldarbeiter"
pictures. In 1969, using Wermsdorfer Wald by Louis-Ferdinand von
Rayski as a model, he paints his first picture to feature an inverted
motif, "The Wood On Its Head"/ "Der Wald auf dem Kopf."
In the 1970s, Baselitz exhibited regularly at Munich's Galerie Heiner
Friedrich. Most of the works he produced during this time were
landscapes themed as pictures-within-a-picture. In 1970, at the
Kunstmuseum Basel, Dieter Koepplin staged the first retrospective of
drawings and graphic works by Baselitz. At the Galeriehaus in
Cologne's Lindenstraße, Franz Dahlem puts on the first exhibition of
pictures with upside-down motifs. In 1971, the Baselitz family once
again moved, relocating to Forst an der Weinstraße. Georg used the old
village school as studio and started painting pictures featuring bird
motifs. He exhibited several times in the next few years around
Germany. He also participated in the 1972 documenta in Kassel. This
same year he began using a fingerpainting technique. He then began
painting landscapes until 1975, chiefly based on motifs from around
Deutschbaselitz. In 1975, the family moved to Derneburg, near
Hildesheim. Baselitz visited New York for the first time and worked
there for two weeks. He also visited Brazil, participating in the 13th
Biennale in São Paulo.
In 1976, Baselitz set up an additional studio in Florence, which he
used until 1981. In 1977, he began working on large-format linocuts.
He began teaching at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in
Karlsruhe, where he is appointed professor in 1978. From 1978 until
1980, he worked on diptychs using the tempera painting technique
(combinations of motifs), multipart pictures (series of motifs), and
large-format individual works such as "The Corn Gleaner"/ "Die
Ährenleserin," "Woman Clearing Away Rubble"/ "Trümmerfrau," "Eagle"/
"Adler" and "Boy Reading"/ "Der lesende Knabe." The works become more
abstract, with scriptural elements predominating. In 1980, he showed
his first sculpture at the Venice Biennale.
In 1981, Baselitz set up an addition study in Castiglione Florentino,
near Arezzo, which he uses until 1987. His work is exhibited in New
York for the first time in 1981. By 1982, he began devoting more time
to sculpture, in addition to several exhibitions. In 1983, he began
using Christian motifs in much of his artwork, and completed the major
composition "Dinner in Dresden"/ "Nachtessen in Dresden". In the same
year, he took up a new professorship at the Hochschule der Künste
Berlin. In 1986, in recognition of Baselitz's achievements, he was
awarded the Kaiserring by the city of Goslar. Through the 1980s,
Baselitz's work is exhibited frequently in Germany. In 1989, the title
Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres was conferred upon
Baselitz by French Minister of Arts Jack Lang.
In 1990, at the Nationalgalerie im Alten Museum in Berlin, the first
major exhibition of Baselitz's works in East Germany was staged. In
1992, he resigned from the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. In 1993, he
designed the set for Harrison Birtwistle's opera "Punch and Judy,"
staged under the direction of Pierre Audi at the Dutch Opera in
Amsterdam. He also took part in the International Pavilion at the
Venice Biennale with the "Male Torso"/ "Männlicher Torso" sculpture,
accompanied by oversized drawings. In 1994, Baselitz designed a stamp
for the French postal service. He also produced his first ground gold
picture that year. In 1995, the first major retrospective of
Baselitz's work in the US is staged at the Guggenheim in New York
City. This retrospective is also exhibited in Washington, D.C. and Los
Angeles. Throughout the 1990s, his work was exhibited frequently
throughout Europe.In 2002,retrospective of Baselitz's work in Art
Gallery of Yapı Kredi Bank in [Istanbul].
Baselitz currently lives and works near Munich and in Imperia. He
recently sold his castle in Derneburg. There was recently an
exhibition of his work in London, at the Royal Academy of Arts.
In the 1970s, Baselitz was part of a group of Neo-Expressionist German
artists, occasionally identified as “Neue Wilden,” focusing on
deformation, the power of subject and the vibrancy of the colors. He
became famous for his upside-down images, he is seen as a
revolutionary painter as he draws the viewer’s attention to his works
by making them think and sparking their interest. The subjects of the
paintings don’t seem to be as significant as the work’s visual
insight. Through out his career, Baselitz has varied his style,
ranging from layering substances to his style, since the 1990s, which
focuses more on lucidity and smooth changes.