Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
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Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Adler (Eagle)

Details
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Adler (Eagle)
signed and dated '1977 G. Baselitz' (lower right); signed, titled and dated 'G. Baselitz Adler Mai/Juni 1977' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
98 3/8 x 78¾in. (250 x 200cm.)
Painted in 1977
Provenance
Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Cologne.
The Visser Collection, The Netherlands.
Their sale, Christie's New York, 14 November 1995, lot 49.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Exhibited
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Georg Baselitz: Paintings 1960-1983, 1983-1984, p. 77. This exhibition later travelled to Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Basel, Kunsthalle.
Klosterneuburg, Sammlung Essl - Kunst der Gegenwart, Sammlung Essl - the first view, 1999, p. 383 (illustrated in colour, p. 108).
Klosterneuburg, Sammlung Essl - Kunst der Gegenwart, Georg Baselitz: Im Walde von Blainville, Malerei 1996-2000, 2000-2001, p. 176 (illustrated in colour, p. 151).
Rovereto, MART, Die Berge. Von Leonardo bis Beuys, 2003-2004.
Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, Baselitz Bis Lassnig: Meisterhafte Bilder, 2008, p. 194 (illustrated in colour, p. 41).
Salzburg, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Georg Baselitz, Gemälde und Skulpturen 1960 – 2008, 2009 (illustrated in colour, p. 97).
Prague, Galerie Rudolfinum, Georg Baselitz: Painting 1960-2008, 2009.
Klosterneuburg, Essl Museum - Kunst der Gegenwart, Georg Baselitz - Werke von 1968 bis 2012, 2013, pp. 42, 136 and 138 (illustrated in colour, p. 43).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

‘When I was at school I made friends with a wildlife photographer. I helped him take shots of waders, which he made into a book that he gave to me. It became a kind of ‘motif’ book. And there were eagles in that – sea eagles admittedly – but still eagles, although with no programmatic significance. These birds have distinct personalities; you can easily use them as a vehicle for symbolic meaning- something like Prometheus, the nude with the wing, the triangle between the arm and torso’ (G. Baselitz in conversation with Evelyn Weiss at Schloss Derneburg, 22 June 1975, in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 32).

‘In the eagle paintings of the 1970s Baselitz successfully neutralized a traditional German symbol by drawing attention to the painterly qualities of an image; but we cannot ignore the note of absurdity when an eagle is shown tucked up in bed, or when the figure in Franz im Bett (Franz in Bed) has a large beak and stiff, wooden features similar to those of Baselitz’s own sculptures’ (R. Calvocoressi, Georg Baselitz Paintings 1960-83, exh. cat., London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1983, p. 12).

Gerhard Richter on the 1981 exhibition, Georg Baselitz Gerhard Richter: ‘Jürgen Harten, Rudi Fuchs, Konrad Fischer, Michael Werner and many others wanted [the exhibition]. It was a piece of showmanship. We were both sort of famous by that time, and it was as if we had to be put into the ring together’ (G. Richter interview with J. Storsve, quoted in D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 257).

‘The importance of Baselitz’s painting depends essentially on his relation to the pictorial space. The image is caught in the agitation of surfaces, in a partial or complete covering of these surfaces, with cruel scribblings, with counterpoint areas of abandonment and insistence’ (A. Saura quoted in, R.M. Mason, ‘Image and Painting’, in Georg Baselitz: Painting and Sculpture 1960-2008, exh. cat., Salzburg, Museum der Moderne, 2009, p. 37).

Painted in 1977, Adler is an iconic work by Georg Baselitz depicting the eagle: bird of prey and symbol of German national pride. Rendered in a palette of black, white and cobalt blue, Baselitz has created an incredibly expressive painting of the noble bird; its powerful neck outstretched and pointed beak thrown into stark relief. Split into fragments, which recall the artist’s earlier Fraktur-Bilder (1966–1968), Adler is made up of bands of colour, grounded by a dense black portion in the lower left of the composition. The bird’s wings and nest are roughly gestured, rapidly applied with the artist’s brush to suggest a flurry of movement, the dynamism of a living creature. Painted upside- down the bird appears to perch at the top of the painting, the ready predator whose world has been turned on its head. Over time, Baselitz has returned to the Adler as a central motif in his oeuvre: an emblematic creature loaded with cultural resonance. Many of the sister paintings to the present work, dating from the 1970s and early 1980s, are now in museum collections including Finger Painting-Adler (1972) (Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich), Fingermalerei III-Adler (1972) (Museum Ku¨ooersmu¨hle fu¨r Moderne Kunst, Duisburg) and Adler (1982) (Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden). As Baselitz explains, he was inspired to paint the eagle first when he was still a child in 1953: ‘When I was at school I made friends with a wildlife photographer. I helped him take shots of waders, which he made into a book that he gave to me. It became kind of ‘motif’ book. And there were eagles in that – sea eagles admittedly – but still eagles, although with no programmatic significance. These birds have distinct personalities; you can easily use them as a vehicle for symbolic meaning- something like Prometheus, the nude with the wing, the triangle between the arm and torso’ (G. Baselitz in conversation with Evelyn Weiss at Schloss Derneburg, 22 June 1975, in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 32).

Adler was exhibited at the Kunsthalle Du¨sseldorf in 1981 in a landmark exhibition that united Baselitz with his peer Gerhard Richter. The two had much in common in terms of their history – both growing up in East Germany before moving West, Baselitz studying with Informel painter Hann Trier at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in West Berlin, while Richter studied with Karl Otto Götz in Dusseldorf. Both artists would also eventually return to teach at their alma maters. Beyond these superficial similarities however, their work could not have been more different. Over the course of two decades both had developed their own unique and independent practices. Indeed they were viewed as ‘giants in opposing artistic camps’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 257). Baselitz was a pioneer of the new, fiercely gestural return to figurative painting known in the United States as neo-expressionism and in Germany as Wild Painting. Richter by contrast had attempted to remove any outspoken emotion from his work. At the exhibition in Dusseldorf, Richter debuted his two earliest mirror paintings (now held in the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf), while Baselitz brought the present work; a bold and expressive painting of an eagle - a striking antithesis. As Gerhard Richter has recalled, ‘Jürgen Harten, Rudi Fuchs, Konrad Fischer, Michael Werner and many others wanted [the exhibition]. It was a piece of showmanship. We were both sort of famous by that time, and it was as if we had to be put into the ring together’ (G. Richter interview with J. Storsve, quoted in D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 257).

Baselitz who had been living with his wife Elke in West Berlin, left from the city to live in the countryside in 1966. The move was perhaps symbolic and inevitable – it was certainly the impetus for his first upside-down paintings including Der Wald auf dem Kopf (The Wood on Its Head), 1969, and Der Mann am Baum (The Man by the Tree), 1969. In doing so, the artist was radically updating the possibilities of painting, as well as the visual regime for reading a composition. As the artist explained, ‘the hierarchy of sky above and ground down below is… only a pact that we have admittedly got used to but that one absolutely doesn’t have to believe in’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in R. Calvocoressi, ‘Head Over Heels’, Farewell Bill: Willem Raucht Nicht Mehr, exh. cat., London, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, p. 15). By deliberately painting an image upside down, Baselitz had hit on a method of objectifying the work of art without entering the realm of pure abstraction or allowing the motif to predominate. As he has recounted, ‘in 1968, I painted the pictures with the dogs and cows that were, if you like, flying around the canvas, coming from above and below, going up and down. Then in spring 1969 I painted The Man at the Tree downwards, standing on his head, although the tree is still painted in the usual way and only the figure is upside down. There were a lot of interpretations based on misunderstandings. For there were also drawings from that time where that really was the case. There was no real clarity yet; things were running parallel in my work. But then quite spontaneously I painted the picture The Wood on its Head and from that point onwards systematically started painting pictures upside down’ (G. Baselitz in conversation with Evelyn Weiss at Schloss Derneburg, 22 June 1975, in D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Collected Writings and Interviews, London 2010, p. 51).

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