Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more

Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr (Black Head with Blue Ear)

Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr (Black Head with Blue Ear)
signed with the artist's intials ‘G.B.’ (lower right); dated ‘10 IV. 85’ (lower left); signed, titled and dated ‘029.III.85 + 10.IV 85 G. Baselitz 'Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr'’ (on the reverse); titled 'Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
57 3⁄4 x 45 3⁄4in. (146.8 x 114.5cm.)
Painted in 1985
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne.
Galleria Cleto Polcina, Rome.
Private Collection, Rome.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 7 October 2016, lot 354.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Georg Baselitz, 1986, p. 72, no. 47 (incorrectly titled and referenced no. 46; illustrated in colour, p. 32).
Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundació Caixa de Pensions, Georg Baselitz, 1990, no. 14 (illustrated in colour, p. 99). This exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones.
Karlsruhe, Städtische Galerie im PrinzMaxPalais Karlsruhe, Georg Baselitz, Gemälde, Schöneund häßliche Porträts, 1993, p. 210, no. 22 (illustrated in colour, p. 182). This exhibition later travelled to Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz.
Paris, Guttklein Fine Art, Double Bind: Georg Baselitz, Antony Gormley, Antonia Recalcati, A. R. Penck, Jean Degottex, Judit Reigl, 2018.
Special notice
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Client Service
Client Service

Lot Essay

Quite literally flipping art on its head, Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr (Black Head with Blue Ear) (1985) is a vibrant example of Georg Baselitz’s bold inversions of pictorial structure. A clownish countenance grins, upside-down, from a morass of dynamic impasto. The face and backdrop consist of rich, layered strokes of black, dark green and khaki, enlivened with under-painted flashes of yellow and red. His features—including the titular blue ear—are picked out in pastel shades of blue, pink and green; they float amid the darker tones like abstract symbols, or parts of a mysterious landscape. He holds his hands to his forehead, as if playing peek-a-boo. Rather than inverting a finished painting, Baselitz begins and ends the work in this format, working in a new compositional logic that carries a revitalising visual shock. In 1990, the present painting was included in a major survey of Baselitz’s 1980s work which travelled from the Centre Cultural de la Fundació Caixa de Pensions, Barcelona, to the Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid, and the Städtische Galerie im Prinz-Max-Palais, Karlsruhe. A closely related work of the same year, Frauenkopf und Tannen (Woman’s Head and Fir Trees), is held in the collection of the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

Baselitz had started using his radical upside-down device in 1969 as a way of ‘emptying’ his pictures of tradition and associated meaning. Through these convulsive paintings, which pictured a decoupling of medium and subject matter, he was able to reconcile his own status as a painter in Germany’s turbulent and uncertain post-war society. Following his 1975 move to a vast castle in Derneburg, where he would live for the next three decades, Baselitz began to work at an increasingly ambitious scale and with a heightened concern for his compositions’ formal power. Like many paintings of this period, Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr reflects his interest in American Abstract Expressionism, de-emphasising loaded Teutonic motifs in favour of vigorous painterly dynamics. It also reflects the inspiration of Piero della Francesca—in particular his Madonna del Parto fresco of 1460, with its bold composition of opposing colours in figure and costume—which Baselitz had admired while working in a studio near Arezzo, Italy, in the early 1980s. During this period he also started to explore large-scale sculpture: an expansive direction echoed in the present work’s emphatic, expressive handling of light and dark, with its pigments appearing almost hacked into the surface.

Baselitz had witnessed two major early European exhibitions of Abstract Expressionism while studying in Berlin in the late 1950s, and was impressed by the freedom, power and dramatic scale of the works he saw by artists such as Pollock, de Kooning, Motherwell, Kline, and Rothko. Unlike the blandly narrative National Socialist and Communist art that he had grown up with, these were paintings that tackled painting, rather than illustrating stories or delivering messages. While these forceful abstractions inspired Baselitz with their liberated, existential spirit, his own early achievements were decidedly figurative. It was not until the late 1970s that he would grapple formally with the grand ‘all-over’ compositions of the New York School in his paintings. In these works Baselitz also widened his remit from Germany’s catharsis to the uprooting and fracture of art history at large, inverting timeworn figurative traditions from portraiture to the still-life, the landscape and the reclining nude. Foregrounding the immediacy of brushwork and the tactility of pigment, Schwarzer Kopf mit blauem Ohr breaks down the portrait to open new territory for painting itself. The work is a playful, vivid vision of upheaval, rebirthing its medium with an electric bodily jolt.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale, London

View All
View All