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  • Executed just two years after the construction of the Berlin Wall and in the same year as his defining debut solo show, Georg Baselitz’s Drei Herzen represents a pivotal moment in the artist’s early career and the formation of his pictorial language. A powerful statement of Baselitz’s desire to depart from prevailing artistic trends and escape the turmoil unleashed by World War II, the present work shares the same sensationally shocking, visceral language of his famous Big Night Down the Drain, 1963. Here, three bulbous heads emerge from hearts in a saturated palette of fleshy reds, pinks, and bone-whites within an abstracted landscape. Showcasing the raw physicality of Baselitz’s brushwork, Drei Herzen reflects the emergence of an uncompromising artist with a unique figurative style rooted in personal memory and collective history.

      

    [left] Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, Munch-musseet, Oslo, Norway, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY [right] Georg Baselitz, Oberon, 1963-1964. Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Image: bpk Bildagentur / Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Georg Baselitz

    Rejecting the Socialist Realism taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, where he had enrolled in 1957, Baselitz embraced the German Expressionism that had been denounced by the Nazis. Taking his cue from the existential angst and embodied trauma explored by Edvard Munch, Antonin Artaud, and Samuel Beckett, Baselitz turned to heads as a recurring motif to anchor his examinations of the human condition. He drew particular inspiration from the hallucinatory work of the mentally ill, such as those he found illustrated in psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn’s Die Bildnerei der Geisteskranken with which he was particularly absorbed at the time. Immediately recalling Chaim Soutine’s depictions of flesh that Baselitz had seen in 1959 after hitchhiking to Amsterdam, the striking physical presence of these heads anticipate the monumental heft of his own Heroes series and his later wood sculptures from the 1980s. Heavily outlined and forced into strange contortions, the three idols at once radically reduce and expand the heart elements, energized by Baselitz’s intense use of colour and handling of paint. Together, the occasional inverted position of the hearts, the subject of the head, and theme of severance introduce the leitmotifs that the artist would ultimately carry through his entire oeuvre.

    The poets lay in the gutter
    their bodies in the morass.
    The whole nation’s spittle
    floating on their soup
    —Georg Baselitz and Eugen Schönebeck, Pandämonisches Manifest I (Pandemonic Manifesto I), 1961

    [left] Chaim Soutine, Le Boeuf écorché, 1926, Stedelijk Museum, Netherlands, Image: Pictoright Amsterdam/Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam [right] Jean Fautrier, Tete d’Otage no. 1, 1944. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

    In the early 1960s, Baselitz collaborated with Eugen Schönebeck on writing “Pandemonic Manifestos,” a vehement expression of independence from the dominant artistic trends of the post-war years ostensibly designed as an advertisement for their joint exhibition by combining text and drawings. The second manifesto was dominated by prominently knotted heads that directly refer to the exaggerated curves of the three idols depicted in Drei Herzen. In their pictorial language and their invocation of “the discharges of the flesh,” these drawings also situate the present work in Baselitz’s words in the manifesto, “Pandemonic entrenchment that leaves no more hope”—finding close literary correlates in Antonin Artaud’s notion of a “Theatre of Cruelty,” as well as the fractured monologues and contorted bodies of Beckett’s most celebrated plays of the period.i

     

    i Georg Baselitz, Pandämonisches Manifest II, quoted in Diane Waldman, “Georg Baselitz: Art on the Edge,” in Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 25.

    • Provenance

      Ludwig Rinn, Munich
      Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg and Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich
      Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich
      The Dürckheim Collection (acquired from the above)
      The Dürckheim Collection, Sotheby’s, London, June 29, 2011, lot 10
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Munich, Galerie Verein und Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst, Georg Baselitz, April 1 - May 9, 1976, no. 5, p. 123 (illustrated, p. 49)
      Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung; Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Vienna, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Palais Liechtenstein, Georg Baselitz: Retrospektive 1964-1991, March 20 - September 13, 1992, no. 1, n.p. (illustrated)
      Brussels, Royal Museums of Art and History, From Tiepolo to Richter, European dialogue, May 24 - September 30, 2018

    • Literature

      Andreas Franzke and Edward Quinn, Georg Baselitz, Munich, 1989, no. 18, p. 266 (illustrated, p. 35)

    • Artist Biography

      Georg Baselitz

      Enthusiastically disruptive and perennially iconoclastic, Georg Baselitz stands out as an artistic outlier among Germany’s impressive roster of postwar artmakers. Born in the former German Democratic Republic and expelled from his East German art school for “sociopolitical immaturity,” Baselitz retreated to the West and quickly became known for creatively challenging widespread artistic conventions by painting in a violent and energetic form of representation in gleeful defiance of the prevailing abstract tendencies of the avant-garde following World War II. Baselitz, favoring figuration, painted caustic portraits and kinetic landscapes in the tradition of the German Expressionists before literally upending his practice in the late 1960s by painting upside-down, creating a disarming pseudo-abstract effect that emphasizes surface over substance.

      Baselitz’s work has been widely celebrated for its unapologetic and unconventional innovation as well as for its occasionally confrontational subject matter. Baselitz’s critical breakthrough came in 1963 with the debut of the unabashedly outrageous painting Die groβe Nacht im Eimer, currently in the collection of the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, which immediately attracted the attention of the German media and judicial system. This work, and others, set the tone for a long and celebrated career of convention-shattering paintings, prints, and sculptures that are at once stylistically innovative and deferential to the German artistic tradition. Today, Baselitz’s work can be found in major institutions worldwide such as the Museum Ludwig and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

       
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Property from the Olbricht Collection

37

Drei Herzen (Three Hearts)

signed "Baselitz" lower right; signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated “G.B. drei Herzen 1963” on the stretcher
oil on canvas
51 1/4 x 64 7/8 in. (130.2 x 164.8 cm)
Painted in 1963.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for $2,450,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021