Georg Baselitz's Heroes series is perhaps the most celebrated work by the artist, and among the most iconic of Post-War German Art. The Heroes paintings demonstrate Baselitz's affinity with German Romanticism, also representing, he has said, the defeated German soldiers who returned to the wreckage of their homeland after World War II (D. Waldman, "Georg Baselitz: Art on the Edge, Georg Baselitz, New York, 1994, pp. 36-37). The subjects of the series were people with whom Baselitz identified: poets, artists, partisans and warriors. The artist renders these subjects in such a way that they can be read as heroes, or as tragic characters that failed to reach the status of hero.
In the mid-1960s, Pop Art was all the rage in America, and in a variant form, in Germany as well. His peers, Richter and Polke among them, were practicing a form of Pop which had the same concerns of consumer culture and the media while Baselitz chose to depict fallen soldiers and poets. Running counter to the broader movement of the time, Baselitz steered away from mechanically reproduced imagery and capitalist commentary in favor of a Romantic attachment to history and a method of rendering his work with the means of a painter.
Each of the Heroes deals with both beauty and ugliness. In Untitled, the face is youthful and innocent looking, if even a bit angelic. But he is clumsy as well. His neck and chest are thick and swollen and his hair seems to cascade down his back endlessly. While each of the Heroes is an outsider struggling to reconcile his history with the present, so too was Baselitz trying to reconcile the role of a painter in Post-War Germany, attracted to the past, but determined to make his way in the contemporary world.