Georg Baselitz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips
  • 'In my paintings I was recalling the things I had to leave. To this day, I still cite people, landscapes and situations in the East. They are still my vocabulary.'
    —Georg Baselitz

    Born in Germany, 1938, Georg Baselitz is one of the most prolific post-War painters of his generation. Spanning over sixty years, Baselitz’s oeuvre ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing, prints and books. His practice within each of these mediums showcase his innovative thinking by challenging conventions within visual culture and pushing back boundaries to provoke the accepted norm. He paints as a by-product of his time having been impacted by the after-effects of the War. The tension from this period could be seen in the stark difference between the Socialist Realist iconography of East German art schools and the imitation of Abstract Expressionism favoured by artists in West Germany. Baselitz rejected both as Social Realism was the State’s answer to pervasive ideology and Abstract Expressionism was regarded as the American response to an universal artistic language.

    'And then I saw Pollock, de Kooning, Sam Francis, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, and others in terms of freedom. The effect was overwhelming, but at the same time, you couldn’t breathe anymore...' —Georg Baselitz

    Hendrik Goltzius, Venus, Cupid and the Two Pairs of Lovers, 1881-90. Image: © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images
    Hendrik Goltzius, Venus, Cupid and the Two Pairs of Lovers, 1881-90. Image: © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

    Seeking a compromise while looking to explore his own identity through his process, Baselitz created the mythical ‘anti-hero’ or ‘new types’ –a direct reference to the communist ideal of a ‘New Man.’ It was clear that the memories from Germany’s defeat appeared raw in his works. Named the Helden (‘Heroes’) series, paintings, drawings and prints from this period were dominated by a central figure depicted in a landscape. They embody the German autochthon- the shepherd, the soldier, the artist- all personifications of the male psyche expressing emotional states of defeat to joy at liberation. Baselitz has described the origins of Helden as partly inspired by Russian literature of the Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary period- the only books he could access in East Germany during the first post-War years. He also referred to sources from sixteenth-century Mannerist prints which the artist studied and collected while having spent time in Florence, Italy. The bodies of Baselitz’s anti-heroes could certainly be traced back to Mannerists such as Jude de Just, Urs Graf and Hendrick Goltzius who portrayed their elongated figures with exaggerated muscles and shadowed undertones to the limbs.

    '[Georg Baselitz] is best known for his upside-down paintings. Where his subject matter is often traditional, his artistic language is one of provocation, and his work is frequently inspired by examples of art in his extensive personal collection.' —John Paul Stonard 

    Ventura di Arcangelo Salimbeni, The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. Image: Bridgeman Images
    Ventura di Arcangelo Salimbeni, The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. Image: Bridgeman Images

    Executed in 2015, Der Kardinal hinter dem Vorhang, is part of a series realised between 2014 and 2018 where Georg Baselitz questions his own aging body and its place in the history of art. The artist’s most recent works look back to his early explorations of the Helden as a self-reflection of his practice both stylistically and inclusive of subject matter. The present work was exhibited alongside 70 other paintings, drawings and sculptures on the occasion of Baselitz’s 80th birthday hosted by the Unterlinden Museum. Painted with oil on canvas, Der Kardinal is shown upside down with only half of the back view exposed. Its fleshly undertones appear ghostly with taupe colouring against a fading black background. It’s role within the exhibition of Corpus Baselitz makes reference to Corpus Christi – the body of Christ and that of apostle Peter who was crucified upside down. The rough treatment of the subject matter is counterbalanced with the generous use of paint and the vigour of the artist’s gesture that leaves the surface wanting of an ancillary narrative. Der Kardinal hinter dem Vorhang is an existential reflection- a display of truth where the artist lays himself bare in the creation of a new series yet also a return to his origins.


    Georg Baselitz on his practice


    Collector's Digest


    •    Georg Baselitz is represented by Gagosian Gallery, White Cube and Thaddaeus Ropac.


    •    He is well-known for his upside-down paintings as he believes that viewers pay more attention to the work when disturbed. Although they are figurative in nature, by inverting them, he straddles the line between abstraction.


    •    The artist has exhibited internationally at renown institutions such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Foundation Beyeler, Basel; Royal Academy, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, to name a few.

    • Provenance

      Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris
      Private Collection, Europe
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Colmar, France, Musée Unterilnden, Corpus Baselitz, 10 June - 4 November 2018 (illustrated, p. 64)

Property from a Private European Collection


Der Kardinal hinter dem Vorhang

signed, titled and dated '23.VII 015 G. Baselitz der Kardinal hinter dem Vorhang' on the reverse
oil on canvas
305 x 209.9 cm (120 1/8 x 82 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£350,000 - 550,000 ‡♠

Sold for £478,800

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022