Art is often used as an exploration of identity. Georg Baselitz contemplated Germany’s past crimes, the Holocaust, and his own place within German society. While others preferred to turn their gaze elsewhere, Baselitz dealt with these themes unabashed. These works express the struggle that a generation of people had with their own nation.
When Baselitz began painting, many German artists were looking to outside influences. Baselitz felt that he was German and must express himself as such. He kept his focus on issues that Germany was contending with and looked to traditional artistic techniques. In the late 1970s, he was among the artists who adopted a more expressive aesthetic with recognizable subjects. This was a rejection of the more international style of abstraction and a rebirth of German Expressionism.
The German Expressionists were defined by their use of bold color, thick brushstrokes, and exploration of inner emotions. They were also interested in unusual sources for inspiration. This included folk art, children’s art, and art of the mentally ill. Most importantly, this was an artistic tradition that had been rejected by the Nazi party. Baselitz saw this as a revival of Germany’s pre-war past.
Human figures feature prominently in Baselitz’s works. They are used to symbolize anxiety and feelings of alienation. The characters are gaunt and starved. They are painted in sketchy, scratched lines, underlying a sense of madness and despair. Baselitz later began painting and displaying the figures upside down to further these emotions and sense of disconnect.
By refusing to shy away from uncomfortable truths and human tragedy, Baselitz created works of art that speak to many. He viewed himself as both a German commenting on German subjects and as an outsider cataloging the experience of a people. While it is difficult to separate these works from the historic context that inspired them, they speak to universal feelings of confusion and anguish after a tragedy.
Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.