Grüner mit Birke is an excellent example of the Fracture Paintings, a critical group of works produced by Baselitz between 1967 and 1969 which both reflects issues explored in the previous Heroes series and anticipates the inversion of the motif in his later works. In the Fracture paintings, the figurative motifs were fragmented, either through slicing and recombinations or through the exaggeration in scale of certain elements and rearrangement of forms so that the figures appear broken, but still identifiable.
The theme and imagery of the forest and its inhabitants, such as hunters, woodsmen, dogs and others dominate the Fracture paintings. "In the paintings and drawings of this period, the New Type remains present to some degree. However, the hero prototype has undergone a fundamental change, to become a personification of closeness to nature, as exemplified for Baselitz by hunters and woodsmen. Game animals, and more particularly hunting dogs, also make an appearance - as does the forest itself, usually represented by massive tree-trunks." (A. Franzke, Georg Baselitz, Munich, 1989, p. 91.) Like his colleagues Markus Lüpertz and Anselm Kiefer, Baselitz seems at times to be obsessed with images which refer to German history and German mythology. The forest evokes the German Romantic focus on the sublimity of nature and reinforces connections to artists such as Casper David Friedrich. In addition to providing a symbolic setting, the forest also reflects a personal interest of Baselitz, who, when younger, had applied to a local forestry school and in 1966 moved with his family from Berlin to the country village of Osthofen.
The concept of humanity merging with nature is displayed visually as well as thematically in Grüner mit Birke. As with other Fracture Paintings, Baselitz adopts a freer technique, where larger strokes dissolve forms into patches of color, giving precedence to shapes and colors instead of the more contoured and narrative earlier works.
Fig. 1 Studio in Osthofen, 1967, Archive Baselitz