Biography of Georg Baselitz
Georg Baselitz is undoubtedly one of the most important and most revered artists working today. Provocative, moving, and always compelling, his work never shies away from confronting the urgent issues of our times. His unwillingness to adhere to the conventions and protocols of the art world has made him a divisive figure in some circles, but his staggering skill as an artist, and undaunted courage have earned him a global following.
An accomplished painter, draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, Georg Baselitz is well known for his prominent role in the development of the German Neo-Expressionist movement. Born in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, a town in East Germany, he grew up surrounded by the rubble of Nazi Germany. He remembers watching the firebombing of Dresden by Allied bombers in 1945.
Georg Baselitz had a difficult relationship with his father, who had lost an eye fighting during World War II. He also clashed with the authoritarian regime in East Germany and was expelled for “social-political immaturity” from his East Berlin art school in 1955. A couple of years later he enrolled at the Hochschule der Künste, having escaped to West Berlin. Soon after his arrival he changed his name from Hans-Georg Kern to Georg Baselitz.
The artist has always courted controversy, and even as a student he was adept at making provocative artworks and statements. In the 1960s Georg Baselitz began work on a series of artworks that would have a profound impact in his homeland and do much to raise his international profile. The series, entitled Heroes, brought dramatic but apparently fragile figures from German’s buried past back to life. The artworks were in opposition to the perception of Germany’s economic miracle of the 1960s, and despite seeming to praise humanity, in the aftermath of World War II these bedraggled giants were unsettling and shocking.
No less controversial was Georg Baselitz’s sculpture installed at the Venice Biennale in 1980, part of which bore striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler. Indeed throughout his career, his engagement with German national identity at a time when many artists were shying away from so difficult a subject, was a remarkable act of confidence and self-assertion.
Georg Baselitz has famously experimented with mediums, shifting between drawing, wooden sculpture, and painting. He is perhaps best known for his iconic upside-down paintings, in which the artist inverts the subject matter in order to highlight the artifice of painting. One of his famous upside down paintings of an Eagle hung in the office of Gerhard Schröder, who at the time was the Federal Chancellor of Germany.
Georg Baselitz’s work has a place in a number of prestigious collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and the Tate Modern, London. Likewise he has exhibited widely, including major exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. In 2015, Georg Baselitz participated in the exhibition “All The World’s Futures” at the Arsenale at the 56th Venice Biennale. In 2018 the artist turned 80.