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Georg Baselitz - Royal Academy of Arts (preview)

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

A MAJOR retrospective of the distinguished German artist, Georg Baselitz, will be held at the Royal Academy from September 22 to December 9, 2007.

Featuring over 60 paintings, plus a significant number of drawings, prints and sculptures, the exhibition will be a comprehensive survey of Baselitz’ work. And with the works coming from over 30 lenders, mainly in Europe, they will provide a unique opportunity to consider his achievement over five decades.

Baselitz, who featured in the seminal 1981 exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy, is an honorary RA. This will be his first retrospective in England since the exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1983.

Born in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, Georg Baselitz has been acclaimed as one of Germany’s most prolific and well-known artists. He is perhaps best known for painting his motifs upside down as a strategy to free the subject matter from its content.

However, his early figurative work deals with his own existential problems within German society in the post-war period. Aggressive and frequently disturbing, Baselitz’ work incorporates semi abstract figures, animals and landscape within a canvas of colour and liberated brushwork. His works project a sense of hostility and isolation in a style that remains distinctive.

Painter, draftsman, printmaker and sculptor, Baselitz began studying painting at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in East Berlin in 1956 but was expelled after only one term because of ‘social-political immaturity’. In 1956, he moved to West Berlin and a year later, resumed his artistic studies, completing them in 1962.

Although influenced in his early years by the artistic works and writings of influential artists and theorists such as Kandinsky, Malevich, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett and the French writer and artist Antonin Artaud, Baselitz was later inspired by art produced by the mentally ill and others at odds with society.

Furthermore, his work has been equally informed by traditional African art, French and Italian Mannerist painting, printmaking of the sixteenth century as well as a profound sense of ornament and decoration.

The exhibition will begin with some of Baselitz’ earliest works, made around 1962, such as the Hero paintings Der neue Typ (The New Type). These will be followed by outstanding examples of his ‘Fracture’ paintings made at the end of the 1960s, leading up to the first so-called ‘upside down’ paintings, such as Der Mann am Baum (The Man at the Tree) from 1969.

The exhibition will also demonstrate Baselitz’ recent return to motifs explored in his early career. These are done in a more transparent linear manner which he calls Remixes. Also included will be a number of sculptures, for example, Model for a Sculpture that was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1980.

The exhibition is curated by Norman Rosenthal, Exhibition Secretary at the Royal Academy of Arts; and sponsored by Eurohypo.

Tickets: £10 adults, £8 concessions, £7 students.

Times: 10am to 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm); late night opening – Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD.

For more information visit the website.