A monumental canvas, rendered in a striking palette of black and white, cherry red, canary yellow and cornflower blue, Georg Baselitz's Horta de Ebro, 1988, first appears abstracted, reminiscent of masked faces set upon a vivid impastoed ground. Upon closer inspection however, the painting reveals four inverted cherry-coloured cottages from the famed mountain village of Horta de Ebro in southern Spain, a location which Picasso chose to depict as an early Cubist landscape eighty years prior. Baselitz's lyrical application of paint creates an auratic haze across the scene, while the upturned cottages, laid flat upon the Spanish landscape, subvert the traditional tropes of landscape painting. In doing so, Horta de Ebro operates on both a conceptual and a richly visual level. Intentionally cloaked in Baselitz's unique semiotics, only the title of the painting reveals the coded origins of the source image; inviting the viewer to complete the painting through their own understanding. In doing so, Baselitz not only celebrates the medium and the materiality of the paint, but also endorses a new and radically unconventional way of seeing.
Painted upside-down with impassioned fervour, Baselitz used broad brushstrokes across the canvas, rendering a hyper-flat picture plane, furthering Picasso and Cézanne's explorations into new modes of perspective in painting. Informed by the location of Horta de Ebro, with its allusions to Picasso's pivotal painting, The Factory at the Village of Horta de Ebro (1909), Baselitz places this work in a lineage of imagery inspired by this canonized place in art history. Picasso's landscape was a seminal work which marked the nascent seed of Cubism for the artist. Picasso in turn was greatly influenced by Cézanne, whose landscape Mont Sainte-Victoire (1902) the artist would have been familiar with, which negates tangible perspective in a way that no doubt informed these early cubist workings. In the present work Baselitz seems to combine these two legacies, recasting them in his own distinctive light within a radically flat landscape, devoid of any sense of distance. Traversing between Picasso's early investigations into Cubist multiple points of perspective and the tactility of Cézanne's paintwork as a flattening tool, Baselitz deliberately positions himself as heir to these two Godfather's of Modernism; thus situating the hyper-flat inversed landscape of his own Horta de Ebro firmly in the canon of art history.