Georg Baselitz (born 1938)

Georg Baselitz is one of the major artists to come out of East Germany. He is also one of the leading figures who helped re-establish German painting after World War II. He first achieved notoriety for his Pandemonium paintings in the early 1960s. In these he described the chaos from which order might, or might not come, evoking insanity, irrationality, paranoia, illness, decay, sex, drink and violence in a great blast of fury.

Later he became known for his roughly carved wooden sculptures and for the ‘fracture’ paintings in which figures are divided in various ways, including being chopped up as if by a forester’s axe. In this decade his subjects often have a specifically Germanic, Nordic subject matter: tattered partisans, soldiers, forests which conceal them, folklore, foresters, animals and so on. Over time he established a group of archetypes which he has continued to return to: the tree, the bird, the knee, the hand, the friend, the rebel, the poet, the shepherd, the soldier, the woodman, together with their domestic animals, carts and ploughs.

In the 1970s he took the decision to paint his subjects upside down in order to liberate both the subject and the expressive qualities of the medium. This approach again caused controversy but kept both the audience and the artist on their toes and enabled Baselitz to carve a unique path in German post-war art. His painterly approach has evolved constantly over the years, often influenced by African sculpture of which he has a large collection.

Where is the Yellow Milk Jug, Mrs Bird? and Folkdance – Tired belong to a series of works the artist made in 1989 at his home at Derneburg in the countryside of Lower Saxony. They are examples of the ecstatic painting of this period in which leitmotifs of falling birds, milk jugs and disembodied heads evoke a primitive world of myth and folklore, their tumbling forms filling the canvas with a sense of rhythm and ornament.

Exhibitions