Renowned for his upside-down paintings, Georg Baselitz is one of the most celebrated artists working today. Rising to prominence in the decades after World War II, he established a new identity for German art, forging a raw and emotive style which spans painting, printmaking and sculpture.
Rejecting the two predominant artistic movements of the time, namely those of Eastern-Bloc Socialist Realism and Western abstraction, Baselitz consistently emphasises the human form, his figures often rendered in vivid and visceral colour palettes.
Born Hans-Georg Kern in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, an area which would later become the German Democratic Republic, the artist enrolled at the Hochschule für Bildende und Angewandte Kunst in East Berlin in 1956. Expelled for ‘political immaturity’, he went on to complete his studies in West Berlin between 1961 and 1962. During this time, he changed his surname to Baselitz as a homage to his birthplace. He also published the ‘Pandemonic Manifestos’, a series of iconoclastic texts which denounced mainstream art in Germany at the time.
While engaging with deep-rooted Teutonic themes, Baselitz would establish a practice which was markedly his own. ‘When I make my paintings,’ he has said, ‘I begin to do things as if I were the first, the only one, as if none of these examples existed.’
Among Baselitz’s most iconic early works are his Helden (Heroes) (1965–66), which depict warriors in ravaged landscapes, their dishevelled appearance picturing the tragedy and trauma of recent history. From 1969, he began to depict his subjects upside down in a bid to ‘empty’ them of content, putting their symbolic power under new tension. A central figure in Baselitz’s oeuvre is his wife Elke, who began to appear in inverted portraits in the late 1960s.
The 1980s marked another notable shift in his practice, when Baselitz made his first foray into sculpture with a series of radical, large-scale wooden figures. In 2005, he began his Remix series, a body of work which presented reimagined versions of significant earlier works, enabling him to both revisit the past and expand upon his mature practice.