Georg Baselitz /   Hans-Georg Kern

Germany 1938


Georg Baselitz
Hans-Georg Kern
October 22, 2014
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

Known for tackling the visceral reality of postwar Germany, Georg Baselitz is an artist who has been able to grasp the world’s attention for the last fifty years. Equally controversial, both his works and personal statements have provoked and strongly separated the public. He emerged as a pioneer of German Neo-Expressionist painting style, but from a European perspective, it is seen more as postmodern. Arguably, his strongest quality is the uncanny consistency with which he’s been creating for more than half a century. Always in the spotlight, he never truly belonged to mainstream, rather categorizing himself as an outsider opposed to expectations and popular trends.

Georg Baselitz terms for contact are at the modern museum in munich, near his home
Georg Baselitz – Wittelsbacher Schwan, 2000 (Left) / Anelise, 2000 (Right) – image courtesy of CFA Berlin

Georg Baselitz – Early Life and Education

Born as Hans-Georg Kern, the artist was raised in Deutschbaselitz in Germany. His father worked as a teacher at an elementary school, and the family lived in a flat above a schoolhouse. Young Georg first discovered the 19th-century pencil drawing in the school’s library, and these helped him to begin creating himself. When he was just eleven years old, he assisted wildlife photographer Helmut Drechsler on his ornithological photo shoots, which subsequently led to the painter’s later landscapes of the Saxony countryside, but also inspired the painting Wo ist der gelbe Milchkrug, Frau Vogel? meaning Where is the Yellow Milkjug, Mrs Bird? – a piece that featured upside-down yellow birds. This reversing of his subjects is also one of Baselitz’s trademark imagery, along with figuration and controversial themes. In 1950, the family moved to Kamens where he attended high school. Interlude During a Hunt in Wermersdorf Forest, a painting by Ferdinand von Rayski, hung in the school drill hall, and it greatly influenced the artist’s later pieces, including his very first inverted painting Der Wald auf dem Kopf (The Wood on its Head). Originally denied acceptance into the Art Academy in Dresden, Baselitz began studying painting under Herbert Behrens-Hangler in 1956 at the Academy of Visual and Applied Art in Weissensee, East Berlin. However, after just two terms, he was expelled because of his “political immaturity”.[1] A year later, he enrolled at the Academy of Visual Arts in Charlottenburg, West Berlin, where he developed an interest in the work of Ernst-Wilhelm Nay, Wassily Kandinsky, and Kazimir Malevich.

Branded as politically immature, he was expelled from East Berlin art school

Georg Baselitz is a painter who had successful shows in 1990 and 2010
Georg Baselitz – Oh dear, ma tutto occupato (Ach herrje, ma tutto occupato), 2016 – photo credits Jochen Littkemann, courtesy of White Cube

Mature Period and Transition to Sculpture

In 1958, he adopted the name Baselitz in a tribute to his hometown, and the same year he met his future wife, Elke Kretzschmar. While still studying, the artist created a series of imaginary portraits, including the Rayski Head and Onkel Bernard, beginning to focus on German identity in the post-WWII era. The paintings were composed of thick, fluid brushstrokes, the individuals appearing more as caricatures rather than traditional realist portraits. Having previously lived under Nazis, followed by the Communist regime and the approved social realism he studied at college, Baselitz knew almost nothing about German expressionism, dadaism, surrealism or even cubism. Upon his arrival to West Germany, he attended a touring show of the American painting, and “suddenly here was abstract expressionism. Paintings by Pollock, de Kooning, Guston, Still and many others, in the very buildings where I took classes every day. It was overwhelming. And not just for me. Even the professors had not seen this sort of work before.”[2] In the early 1960s, he concentrated on specific archetypes in paintings and woodcuts, mostly of rebels, heroes, and shepherds, becoming increasingly interested in anamorphosis, the distorted or monstrous representation of an image, as exemplified in the proportions and facial features of his figures. Experimentation was the only way to reinvent his exaggerated art style, and in 1969, attempting to free the style from the subject matter, Baselitz painted his first inverted piece entitled Der Wald auf dem Kopf (The Wood on its Head). A decade later, he once again reinvented his approach to art, making a decision to start producing sculptures.

He reinvented his exaggerated style through experimentation

Georg Baselitz works were featured in a museum in munich in 1990 and 2010
Georg Baselitz – Wintersleep (Winterschlaf), 2014 – courtesy of White Cube

Artistic and Personal Controversies

These sculptures, similarly to his paintings, were unrefined, forceful, and crude. By refraining himself from polishing his works, the artist would often simply leave the surface uneven, scratched, and chipped, adding to rough-hewn appearance. In 1980, his already established reputation was confirmed when was chosen to represent his country at the Venice Biennale. The prestigious event was the perfect opportunity to exhibit his first sculptural artwork – Model for a Sculpture. It was a crudely carved wooden figure which immediately sparked controversy due to the similarity of its out-raised arm gesture to a Nazi salute. It was one of many controversies regarding his work. Baselitz is also known for having some questionable opinions. For example, his infamous claim that women can’t paint raised more than a few of eyebrows. Basing it on the many years of teaching experience, where the percentage of female students was up to 80%, he stated: “Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact. There are, of course, exceptions. Agnes Martin or, from the past, Paula Modersohn-Becker. I feel happy whenever I see one of her paintings. But she is no Picasso, no Modigliani and no Gauguin.”[3] He added Helen Frankenthaler, Cecily Brown, and Rosemarie Trockel to the list of exceptions, saying that he respects their work. Attempting to provide an explanation, he stated: “There is, of course, quite a lot of brutality in art. Not brutality against others, but brutality against the thing itself, against what already exists. When Modersohn-Becker painted herself, she looked very unpleasant, and extremely ugly…”, and “…she hesitated to destroy others, in other words, to really destroy Gauguin by going beyond his art. Men have no problem with that. They just do it. But you must know that I do love women.”

Baselitz represented his country at 1980 Venice Biennale

Georg Baselitz has pieces exhibited at museum in munich that is near his family home
Georg Baselitz – Model for a Sculpture, 1979-1980 – image via

Remix Paintings, Activism, and Recent Exhibitions

In 2005, the painter introduced the ‘Remix’ in his work, marking the return to key phases of his own artistic history. This concept included making new versions of the previous works, now painted intuitively, with quick and spontaneous flashes of bright, transparent color. It also allowed him to revisit and excavate the past, pushing his own painterly vocabulary to create works that are fresh and liberated. Baselitz revisits paintings such as The Great Friends and Finger Painting-Eagle in a dynamic process that virtually reinterprets the original versions’ significant features, thereby transposing the artist’s work into a more contemporary framework.[4] The impulse to improve, clarify, and update is clearly evident, but the haunting, fleeting quality of the Remix work has also to do with a mature artist’s meditations on time, presence, failure and possibility. In 2014, faced with the possibility of Germany introducing a new legislation concentrated on the protection of the country’s culture (which would have brought significant financial damage to galleries, dealers, and artists), Baselitz pulled his artworks that were loaned to some of biggest German art museums. Near the end of 2015, the artist had a show at CFA Berlin, where dogs weren’t just a banal decoration in the corner of the canvas, but take a central stage and the artist identifies strongly with his animal subjects. The exhibition’s title Sigmund’s Cave is spelled out above and around every subject, thus alluding to the fact that these are not simple dog portraits but rather codes of a Freudian universe. In 2016, Baselitz had a major solo show at White Cube in London, entitled Wir fahren aus, where he occupied the entire gallery space and showed his monumental paintings and sculptures.

His modern and expressionist art ushered a path for postmodernism and neo-expressionism

Georg Baselitz
Georg Baselitz – Hotplate fa caldo (Ofenplatte fa caldo), 2015 (Left) / A bad future (Eine schlechte Zukunft), 2015 (Right) – photo credits Jochen Littkemann, courtesy of White Cube


Best known for the incredible quality and consistency present in his work, Georg Baselitz was exposed to Social Realism and Abstract Expressionism before playing a major role in reviving the German Expressionism and ushering a path for Neo-Expressionism. Inspired by the work of Edvard Munch and Philip Guston, the artist himself inspired many others, including Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Presenting himself as an outsider, he put a lot of effort in reviving symbols of German national identity that were tarnished after World War II. After much experimentation and after conquering nearly every artistic medium, Baselitz has established a reputation of being not just one of the German best known painters, but as one of the most famous artists in the world.

He is represented by White Cube, Gagosian, and Kunzt Gallery.

Georg Baselitz lives and works in Saltsburg, Austria.


  1. Searle A. On the Offensive, The Guardian [November 2,2016]
  2. Wroe N. Georg Baselitz: ‘Am I supposed to be friendly?’, The Guardian [November 2,2016]
  3. Beyer S and Knöfel U. ‘My Paintings are Battles’, Der Spiegel [November 2,2016]
  4. Heinze A. Georg Baselitz: Back Then, In Between, and Today, Prestel, 2014

Featured image: Georg Baselitz – portrait – photo credits Michael Dannenmann, courtesy of Huck Magazine
All other images are copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group 
2014Georg Baselitz - VanitasGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Paris, ParisSolo
2014Georg Baselitz - Farewell BillGagosian Gallery, LondonSolo
2014Earthly SpheresSetareh Gallery, DusseldorfGroup
2014How Soon Was Now - A Brief History of CFA Contemporary Fine Arts - CFA, BerlinGroup
2014Wild Heart: Art Exhibition of German Neo-Expressionism Since the 1960sChina Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
201440 | 10. 40 Jahre Sammlung | 10 Jahre Museum Frieder Burda" Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-BadenGroup
2014Love Story - The Anne & Wolfgang Titze CollectionBelvedere, ViennaGroup
2014Love Story – Sammlung Anne & Wolfgang Titze21er Haus, ViennaGroup
2014Summer Presentation - DE PONTMuseum of contemporary art, TilburgGroup
2014Room I: COLLECTOR'S ROOM # 6Deweer Art Gallery, OtegemGroup
2013Georg Baselitz - RemixAlbertina, ViennaSolo
2013Georg Baselitz - Le Côté SombreGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Paris, ParisSolo
2013Arbeiten auf Papier 1970–2011Galerie Noah, AugsburgSolo
2013Georg BaselitzKunstmuseum Heidenheim, HeidenheimSolo
2013Georg Baselitz - Sing Sang ZeroGalerie Sabine Knust, MunichSolo
2013Georg Baselitz - Werke Von 1968 Bis 2012Sammlung Essl - Kunsthaus, KlosterneuburgSolo
2013Post-Picasso: Contemporary ReactionsMuseo Picasso, BarcelonaGroup
2013The Carollers of KölbigkGalleri Bo Bjerggaard, CopenhagenGroup
2013Baselitz-leroyMUba Eugène Leroy, TourcoingGroup
201330 Years ( Part One )Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgGroup
2013Adventures of truth - Painting and philosophyFondation Maeght, Saint-PaulGroup
2013Munch By OthersHaugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum, TønsbergGroup
201320 Jahre Tony Wuethrich GalerieTony Wuethrich Galerie, BaselGroup
2012Pintura sobre papel y obra gráficaGaleria Pilar Serra (former Estiarte), MadridSolo
2012Georg BaselitzGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Paris, ParisSolo
2012Das Negativ - New PaintingsGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2012Das NaturmotivSchloss, Augusteum und Prinzenpalais, OldenburgSolo
2012DruckgraphikGalerie C.G. Boerner GmbH, DusseldorfSolo
2012Georg Baselitz - GraphikenGalerie Jordan Seydoux, BerlinSolo
2012Baselitz GeorgGalerie Enzo del Mese-Fischer, MeisterschwandenSolo
2012Georg Baselitz - Das Naturmotiv Zeichnungen und GemäldeALTANA Kulturstiftung im Sinclair-Haus, Bad HomburgSolo
2012Georg BaselitzGagosian Gallery , New York City, NYSolo
2012Baselitz - Berliner JahreVilla Schöningen, PotsdamSolo
2011Baselitz as sculptorMusée d´Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris - MAM/ARC, ParisSolo
2011Georg BaselitzRex Irwin Art Dealer, Woollahra, NSW (closed, 2012)Solo
2011Georg BaselitzGalerie Doris Hölder, RavensburgSolo
2011Georg Baselitz - A la pointe du traitMusée Cantini, MarseilleSolo
2011Georg Baselitz - RemixKunstforeningen GL Strand, CopenhagenSolo
2011Georg Baselitz - The Early SixtiesMichael Werner Gallery - New York, New York City, NYSolo
2011Georg Baselitz - 25 Jahre MeisterwerkeNiels Borch Jensen Galerie & Verlag, BerlinSolo
2011WatercoloursGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2010Georg Baselitz: Pinturas RecentesPinacoteca do Estado, São PauloSolo
2010Georg Baselitz - Non ConformGalerie Terminus, MunichSolo
2010Georg Baselitz - Big Night (Remix) xylographiesGalerie Catherine Putman, ParisSolo
2010Georg Baselitz - Editionen - Hommage à Catherine PutmanGalerie Jordan Seydoux, BerlinSolo
2010Georg Baselitz, monumental sculptures, paintings and aquarellesGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Paris, ParisSolo
2010Monumental Sculptures, Paintings and AquarellesGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2010Georg BaselitzMichael Werner Kunsthandel, CologneSolo
2010Georg Baselitz: RemixHelsinki City Art Museum, HelsinkiSolo
2010Wild AnimalsDemisch Danant, New York City, NYSolo
2009Baselitz - 30 Jahre SkulpturStaatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-BadenSolo
2009Baselitz. 50 Jahre Malerei Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-BadenSolo
2009Dr Freud Und Andere MusikContemporary Fine Arts - CFA, BerlinSolo
2009Georg Baselitz.Dresdner Frauen - Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, DresdenSolo
2009Georg BaselitzKunstverein Schallstadt, SchallstadtSolo
2009Georg BaselitzGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2009Georg Baselitz - Obra recienteGalería Heinrich Ehrhardt, MadridSolo
2009Georg Baselitz / 1960-2008Galerie Rudolfinum, PragueSolo
2009Remix 65/66Galerie Margareta Friesen, DresdenSolo
2009Georg BaselitzGalerie Henze & Ketterer & Triebold, RiehenSolo
2009Georg Baselitz - Gemälde und Skulpturen 1960-2008Museum der Moderne Salzburg Mönchsberg, SalzburgSolo
2009Georg Baselitz - EtchingsGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2009Georg BaselitzGalerie Radicke, Sankt AugustinSolo
2009Georg Baselitz - Mrs Lenin and the NightingaleWhite Cube - Hoxton Square, LondonSolo
2009Georg BaselitzGalerie Ruhnke, PotsdamSolo
2008Georg BaselitzKunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch HallSolo
2008Georg Baselitz - La Grande Notte in BiancoGagosian Gallery, RomeSolo
2008Baselitz auf PapierPinakothek der Moderne, MunichSolo
2008Georg Baselitz: Prints 1965-1992Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje, SkopjeSolo
2008Georg Baselitz - BildwegGalerie Gebr. Lehmann - Dresden, DresdenSolo
2008Georg BaselitzMuseo D'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina - MADRE, NaplesSolo
2008Georg Baselitz - Wer kennt Anna SelbdrittKunstmuseum Bonn, BonnSolo
2008Georg Baselitz. RemixGalerie Thaddaeus Ropac - Salzburg, SalzburgSolo
2008Georg Bazelitz, 23 January 1938Contemporary Fine Arts - CFA, BerlinSolo
200777* George Baselitz - Gemälde und Arbeiten auf Papier 1972 - 1998Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/BernSolo
2007Georg Baselitz - RemixGalerie Catherine Putman, ParisSolo
2007Georg Baselitz - Die Russenbilder.Deichtorhallen Hamburg, HamburgSolo
2007Georg Baselitz - Remix PaintingsGagosian Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2007Georg Baselitz - RemixGalleri Bo Bjerggaard, CopenhagenSolo
2007Baselitz-GrafikKunstverein Heilbronn, HeilbronnSolo