Between 1972 and 1975, Georg Baselitz completed a small but significant series of larg-scale self-portraits in the nude. 'Dreieck zwischen Arm und Rumpf (Fingermalerei Akt)' (Triangle Between Arm und Torso, Finger Painting Nude) also incorporates the motif of the eagle's wing, which featured in the artist's ouevre in the previous two years. In the present painting, the artist has surrendered the central postioning of the figure, thrusting it to the side and eradicating the head. As a result, the image of the wing, the 'triangle' of the title, is given that much more attention, stressing Baselitz's wish that the formal properties of the painting, and not the image or motif, become the primary focus of the viewer's attention. What results is a clever juxtaposition of abstraction and figuration, conceptualism and expressionism, form and colour.
Baselitz explains: "I decided in 1969, or from 1969 onwards, to dispense with narrative and content and deal only with things that painting normally uses: the landscape, the nude, the portrait, the still-life and so forth. That is a decision which defines a certain path and has a constricting effect. But in terms of the overall image, I think it pays off." (G. Baselitz in: B. Taschen (ed.), 'Georg Baselitz', Cologne 1990, p. 94.)
It was in 1972 and 1973 that Baselitz's style had experienced several significant changes as a result of his desire to challenge his own painting, just as he had confronted the painting traditions of previous genrations. From 1960 to 1966, for example, he challenged the German painting establishment by addressing the content of his work. Then, from 1966 to 1969, his desire to find a new way of painting led to a highly innovative structure and composition for his paintings. In these well known works, known as 'Fracture Paintings', Baselitz completely violated the conventional principles of pictorial construction. In 1969, the artist then began painting his works upside-down, a stylistic innovation that won him international acclaim. Here the artist's goal was to paint abstract pictures through the mode of figuration. In addition to the inverted subject matter, these paintings are noted for the central emphasis on the substance of paint and the process of painting. The so-called 'Finger Paintings', to which 'Dreieck zwischen Arm und Rumpf' belongs, epitomise Baselitz's urge to make things difficult for himself and to disrupt habitual practises.
"Taken as a whole, the works of the early 1970s are marked by what is, for Baselitz, a surprisingly open layout. There are two immediate reasons for this. He is, firstly, experimenting with the possibilities of a new technique, namely finger painting: and, secondly the deliberately light, bright coloring he uses in these compositions favors an impression of transparency. [...] This textual openness has its counterpart in Baselitz's choice of subjects. [...] Baselitz chooses themes that he came across by chance. This randomness tends to create a deceptive impression that they might be studies from nature; but all this apparent naturalness and spontaneity is the product of calculation. Whether the subject is birds - suggested by a friend's collection of photographs - or undergrowth, corpses, interiors, eagles, eagles' wings, or, finally, a long series of nudes, he always succeeds in focusing attention on the brilliant subtlety of the application of the paint itslef." (A. Franzke, 'Georg Baselitz', Munich 1989, p. 112.)