Georg Baselitz is born in 1938 as Hans-Georg Kern in Deutschbaselitz / Saxony. In 1956 he begins his art studies at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee and moves to West Berlin already in 1957. There he studies with Hann Trier at the Hochschule der Künste. His artistic career is determined by his grapplings with the German past and its National Socialist history, the fate of a disoriented »fatherless generation«, and the protest against the political status quo that establishes itself all too quickly.
In 1961 the artist changes his name to Baselitz, his place of birth. In 1961/62 the two programmatic writings, »Pandemonium I/II«, are written together with his artist friend, Eugen Schönebeck. In search of impassioned artistic expression, Baselitz turns to the tradition of figural painting, that appears to be politically tainted by the NS past. Moreover, from the perspective of the 1960s and considering the dominance of abstract and Abstract Expressionist tendencies, it is at the time seen as the epitome of the anti-modern. For Baselitz, the body becomes the preferred vehicle for artistic expression. Baselitz stages with joyful obscenity and martial monumentality the physical body as distorted, mutilated, lifeless substance which he turns into a metaphor for a patronizing and hopeless socio-political situation (Die Große Nacht im Eimer, 1962/63). Baselitz creates a persiflage of German national traditions of thought and representation with this series of Helden rendered as massive masculine individual portraits (Die großen Freunde; Der Rebell 1965; Der Hirte, 1965). In his fractured images, created from 1966 onward, he dismembers and shreds picture motifs by tearing them into strips. Baselitz’ grotesque figures are given the status of a recognizable signature as he begins to turn his picture motives up side down in 1969. (Der Wald auf dem Kopf, 1969).
In the following years Baselitz turns his attention increasingly to painterly picture compositions. He also experiments with finger-painting techniques, especially in series that make trees and eagle motifs their object. Baselitz now becomes known to a larger public, a retrospective of his drawings takes place in 1970 in Basel, and in 1972 his works are shown in Hamburg. He is also represented at the Documenta 5 the same year. Baselitz teaches from1977 until 1983 at the Kunstakademie Karlsruhe, followed by a teaching appointment that continues until 1988 at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.
Baselitz also creates monumental wooden sculptures from 1979 onward. His well-known roughly hewn figural work, Modell für eine Skulptur, the German contribution to the Biennale in Venice in 1980, elicits a number of protests, especially because of its arm outstretched in a Hitler greeting. Baselitz also does stage decorations in addition to painting and sculptures. In 1993 he makes the stage scenery for the opera »Punch und Judy« by Harrison Birtwistle at the Amsterdam Opera House. The highlight of his many distinctions is the comprehensive retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum New York in 1995.
In the following years Baselitz turns again and again to themes relating to his own personal history and the use of national thought patterns and ideas about cultural constructs – such as home(land), childhood, and folk art – on the topic (Wir daheim, 1996; Wir besuchen den Rhein, 1996). In the prestigious commission for the Reichstag in Berlin, Baselitz deals with one of the main protagonists of German Romanticism represented in the work of Caspar David Friedrich (Friedrich’s Frau am Abgrund, 1998; Friedrichs Melancholie, 1998). Questions surrounding the historicity of artistic forms of representation and the political groundedness also determine Baselitz’ recent work of Baselitz. Thus he is interested in the socialist realism of the 1930s (Lenin auf der Tribüne, 1999), but also in the work of Marcel Duchamp (Im Walde von Blainville, 2000). His works change with delicate color nuances on unstretched canvas and seemingly pointillist colors that are applied with cork (Knaben I-IV, 1998; Rasterpunkte ausser Konkurrenz, 2002).
Georg Baselitz lives and works in Derneburg near Hildesheim and in Imperia on the Italian Riviera.
Georg Baselitz. Bilder, die den Kopf verdrehen: Ausst-Kat. Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland Bonn, Leipzig 2004
Georg Baselitz, Das große Pathos, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, Graphik: Ausst.-Kat. Hamburger Kunsthalle, hg v. Günther Gercken u. Christoph Heinrich, Hamburg, 1999
Georg Baselitz: Ausst.-Kat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York u.a., hg. v. Diane Waldman, New York 1995
Georg Baselitz – Retrospektive 1964 — 1991: Ausst.-Kat. Hypo-Kunsthalle München u.a., hg. v. Siegfried Gohr. München 1992
Franzke, Andreas: Georg Baselitz, München 1988