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Details
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Igor
signed and dated 'G. Baselitz 1971' upper left--signed and dated again 'Georg Baselitz 1971' on the reverse
oil on canvas
78.7/8 x 98½in. (200.4 x 250.2cm.)
Provenance
Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg (acquired by the present owner in 1972)

Lot Essay

With Igor, a rare and unique portrait of the artist's dog, Baselitz combines the motif of the dog with that of the forest, both of which had played a significant role in his art since the early 1960s. Like his colleagues, Markus Lpertz and Anselm Kiefer, Baselitz seems at times to be obsessed with images which refer to German history and German mythology. In Igor, the dog which has, for many, come to symbolize the bestiality of the Nazis, walks prowling into a forest painted in beige, grey and green tones of military camouflage. The tumultuous clouds that dominate the lower section of the painting underscore the sense of foreboding.

The artist's depiction of the lush forest and the moody clouds reaches even further back in art history to the German Romantic movement and in particular to the cult of nature as advocated by artists such as Caspar David Friedrich. Yet whereas the Romantics sought God in the sublime landscape, Baselitz' viewpoint has been affected by a modern skepticism. As Michael Brenson writes 'In Baselitz's late 20th century world, nature has been to roughed up, too exploited, too toxified to allow for a religion of landscape. Baselitz wants to make his paintings an expression for a life force essential to natural and human life, but with little relation to the way either of them looks and feels. He sees art as arena beyond good and evil, where reality has not yet been sorted out, where nature is not just harmony and peace, or flowers and wings, but something that can seem to the human mind savage and cruel. Only by struggling for an obsolete immediacy that renders conventional distinctions sentimental and useless can Baselitz conceive of an art that has the right and the potential to endure.' (Georg Baselitz, New York 1992, p. 13)

In 1969, Baselitz made a radical change in his art by inverting the subject matter. In doing so, he forces the viewer to look beyond the context to concentrate solely on painterly values. Baselitz argues: 'The hierarchy which has located the sky at the top and the earth at the bottom is, in any case, only a convention. We have got used to it but we don't have to believe in it. The only thing that interests me is the question of how I can carry on painting these pictures.' (Georg Baselitz, Cologne 1990, p. 96) Thus Baselitz' paintings are influenced not only by the rich tradition of German Romanticism, but also by his early admiration for the freedom of the Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock, whose paintings Baselitz first saw in Berlin in 1958. His bold, vigorous brushstrokes, were clearly inspired by such precedents. The success of his approach is especially evident in the colors and the spontaneous handling of the brushstrokes before reading any meaning into the painting.
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