George Baselitz: Dinner in Dresden, 1983, 280 x 450 cm. Kunsthaus, Zürich. Photo Frank Oleski
© Georg Baselitz
George Baselitz: with a red flag, 1965, 162 x 130 cm. Private collection, Germany. Photo Frank Oleski
© Georg Baselitz
London, 22 september - 9 december 2007
The Royal Academy of Arts will be holding a major retrospective of the distinguished German artist, Georg Baselitz, in September. Featuring over 60 paintings together with a significant number of his drawings, prints and sculptures, the exhibition will be a comprehensive survey of Baselitz’s work that will document a career of his most important works. These works will come from over 30 lenders, mainly in Europe, and will therefore provide a unique opportunity to consider his achievement over five decades. Baselitz, who featured in a major way in the seminal 1981 exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy, which introduced his work to a British audience, is an Honorary RA. This will be his first retrospective in England since the exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1983.
Born 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, Georg Baselitz has been acclaimed as one of Germany’s most prolific and well-known artists. Baselitz is perhaps best known for painting his motifs upside down as a strategy to free the subject matter from its content. However, his early figurative work deals with existential problems of being in Germany at a period where abstraction largely holds sway. Aggressive and frequently disturbing, Baselitz’s work incorporates semi abstract figures, animals and landscape within a canvas of colour and liberated brushwork. His works project a sense of hostility and isolation in a style that remains distinctive.
Painter, draftsman, printmaker and sculptor, Baselitz began studying painting at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in East Berlin in 1956 but was expelled after only one term because of ‘socialpolitical immaturity’. After moving to West Berlin in 1956 Baselitz resumed his artistic studies in 1957 completing them in 1962.
Influenced in his early years by the artistic works and writings of influential artists and theorists such as Kandinsky, Malevich, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett and the French writer and artist Antonin Artaud, Baselitz later became deeply involved and inspired by art produced by the mentally ill and others at odds with society. His work has been equally informed by traditional African art, French and Italian Mannerist painting, printmaking of the sixteenth century as well as a profound sense of ornament and decoration.
The exhibition will commence with some of Baselitz’s earliest works, made around 1962, such as Die Große Nacht im Eimer (The Big Night Down the Drain) and the Hero paintings Der neue Typ (The New Type). This will be followed by outstanding examples of his ‘Fracture’ paintings made at the end of the 1960s, leading up to the first so-called ‘upside down’ paintings such as Der Mann am Baum, 1969 (The Man at the Tree). With this work, Baselitz found a new language that enabled him to combine principles of abstraction with those of realism as well as philosophically ‘standing the world on its head’ which was to serve as a metaphor and ‘Leitmotiv’ for much of his subsequent art. The exhibition will also demonstrate his return recently to motifs explored in his early career. These are done in a more transparent linear manner, which he calls Remixes. There will be important sculptures in the exhibition, particularly Model for a Sculpture that was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1980 where it caused a considered sensation.