Overview

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Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Property from a Private American Collection 
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Franz im Bett

Details
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Franz im Bett
signed with initials and dated 'I.IX.82 G.B.' (lower center); signed again, titled and dated again ''Franz im Bett' I.IX.82 G. Baselitz' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
98½ x 98½ in. (250 x 250 cm.)
Painted in 1982.
Provenance
Galerie Gillespie-Laage-Solomon, Paris
Jan Eric Löwenadler, New York
Fredrik Roos, Stockholm
His sale; Christie's, New York, 5 May 1992, lot 23A
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Literature
A. Franzke, Georg Baselitz, Munich, 1989, p. 177, no. 153 (illustrated).
F. Dahlem, Georg Baselitz, Cologne, 1990, p. 138 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Zeitgeist, 1982, p. 81, no. 13 (illustrated).
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Kunsthalle Basel, Georg Baselitz: Paintings 1960-83, July 1983-April 1984, p. 60 (illustrated).
Vancouver Art Gallery, Georg Baselitz, November 1984-January 1985, p. 49 (illustrated).
Centro Mostre di Firenze, Sala d'arme di Palazzo Vecchio and Hamburger Kunsthalle, Georg Baselitz: Bilder 1965-1987, April-September 1988, p. 81, no. 30 (illustrated).
Fréjus, Foundation Templon, Exposition Inaugurale, July-September 1989.
Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundació Caixa de Pensions and Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Georg Baselitz, February-July 1990, pp. 92-93, no. 11 (illustrated).
New York, Mary Boone Gallery, Georg Baselitz: The Zeitgeist Paintings, November-December 1991 (illustrated).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Georg Baselitz, May 1995-July 1996, p. 148, no. 135 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

One of the series of paintings known as the "Mann im Bett" (Man in Bed) series, Franz im Bett is one of nine major paintings that the artist made between July and September 1982 specifically for the now famous Zeitgeist exhibition held in West Berlin that same year. At this groundbreaking and era-defining show, Franz im Bett was one of four two and a half meter square canvases that hung over the entrance door to one of the vast rooms of the Martin Gropius-Bau - the imposing building originally built as an industrial museum - which in 1982 stood near the Berlin Wall overlooking the vast no-man's-land wilderness of what had once been the German capital's former bustling centre, Potsdamerplatz.

The Zetgeist exhibition, curated by Norman Rosenthal and Christos Joachimides and shown one year after these curators' grand reassertion of the validity of contemporary painting at the A New Spirit in Painting show held at the Royal Academy in London and at which Baselitz had also exhibited, was an extension of this earlier exhibition along a more specifically contemporary line. Ambitiously named to reflect the "spirit of the age," Zeitgeist aimed to bring together a range of work by painters and sculptors who were then all working in direct contrast or opposition to the prevailing Minimalist and Conceptual tendencies of the late 1970s. While the young/old mix of A New Spirit in Painting had served to revalidate the contemporary paintings of such historic figures as de Kooning, Twombly, Guston, Warhol and even "Late Picasso", the Zeitgeist exhibition and the Expressions: New Art from Germany exhibition that soon followed it in the United States, made new stars of many of its participants, Baselitz, Kiefer and Penck among them. Most significantly, it also effectively launched the whole notion of a dominant "New Expressionist" tendency running through early 1980s art from the so-called "Neue Wilde" in Germany, and the Transavanguardia painters of Italy and "Figuration Libre" in France to much of the street and graffiti work then coming out of New York.

'People were starting to say that my works had a link with German Expressionism,' Baselitz recalled of this time. 'In fact this only applies to the way I handle the canvas, my manual use of the canvas. I have never had any relationship with Expressionism. In fact I have always wondered why it was so alien to me. The reason is that the Expressionists use a method that illustrates our environment, the world we live in. They use what exists; they extract from it an illustrative method of making a painting. Everything is linked. Painting a green cow doesn't necessarily entail losing touch with one's environment. I have always invented the objects and the various figurations that I wanted to show. I have never had a model. That is something that has remained entirely alien to me, something that does not suit me at all' (quoted in Georg Baselitz exh. cat. Solomon. R. Guggenheim Museum, 1995, pp. 149-150).


Part of a series of paintings depicting a lone bird-like figure either lying in bed or against a window, Franz im Bett is an intense and painterly work - one of four square-format paintings, along with Adler im Bett, Nacht mit Hund and Adler im Fenster - that formed a cohesive group at the Zeitgeist exhibition - the two paintings of reclining figures in bed framing the other two paintings of standing figures by a window. All of these paintings, made throughout the summer of 1982, reflect the increased sense of psychological tension that pervaded much of Baselitz's work at this time. Each makes use of the inverted motif, though this, of course is more pronounced in the standing figure paintings than in those depicting figures lying in bed. This inversion - a distinguishing practice that Baselitz began in the late 1960s and early' 70s - was deemed at the time to be a clever means of "deconstructing" the image and the art of painterly practice, but for Baselitz it has always been merely, 'a way of making pictures... with a new sense of detachment. That's all.' (quoted in "Interview with P.M. Pickshaus" in Franz Dahlem, Georg Baselitz, Cologne, 1990, p. 29). In the Mann im Bett pictures each work with its lone and seemingly imprisoned and sometimes wounded bird-like figures set into an impersonal and grid or cell-like space, has also been bestowed with a powerful, even existentialist sense of isolation, loneliness and thwarted potential.

Reflective perhaps of Baselitz's own sense of isolation as a former East German now living in the West and as an artist who felt he neither fitted in with nor belonged to life of either side of the Wall, these figures echo to some extent the "New Types" and "Heroes" wandering a post-war wasteland in Bazelitz's work of the mid-1960s. In addition, in such figures as the intensely worked yellow bird-man of Franz im Bett this radiant and imposingly statuesque figure also reflects the wounded intensity of some of the large single-figure wooden sculptures that Baselitz had also begun to make at this time. In 1982 Baselitz returned to sculpture and several of his large lone-standing human figures hewn and hacked roughly out of limewood trunks offer a close parallel to the figures of the Mann im Bett series. Each of these distinctly monumental figures with its roughly hewn and seemingly wounding axe marks or ferocious brushstrokes seems to indicate as much the sculptural or painterly act of making it as it does any sense of portraiture. In this way Baselitz's works speak powerfully of the artist's own practice while the strong, but also open nature of their imagery becomes more or less incidental, a mere vehicle through which the artist is able to vent both his feelings and his need to create. 'The problem is not the object in the picture,' he has said, 'but the picture-as-object. And the question what the artist is playing with - a chair, a cube or a human face - is quite simply a non-issue' (quoted in F. Dahlem, Georg Baseltiz, Cologne, 1990, p. 158).

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