Georg Baselitz - 20th Century to Now London Friday, June 30, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Self-Portraiture is a discipline. Like painting nudes, still life or landscapes […] the most personal one, as it deals with yourself.”
    —Georg Baselitz
    Executed on a large scale in exuberant, gestural splashes of blues, pinks, and greens, Georg Baselitz’s Wal lam ruch mihr (Frebl aill lew) is one of fifteen paintings first presented in Farewell Bill, an exhibition mounted by Gagosian Gallery in London in 2014. An homage to the great Abstract Expressionist master Willem de Kooning - and especially to the serenely radiant colours and fluid forms that characterise his late paintings - in this cycle of canvases, Baselitz confidently blends figurative and more abstract elements, working in the great northern European tradition of self-portraiture while drawing on the legacies of mid-century abstraction.

    Representing the largest self-portraits executed by the artist, these works look back to his earliest experiments in the genre, notably to the significantly smaller paintings executed in the late 1950s at the very outset of his career. As in his Remix paintings, Baselitz here returns to and reinterprets motifs and pictorial elements from these earlier works, using de Kooning as a guide and anchor for the series. Self-consciously echoing the style and methods of his master, including the employment of a more luminous, white ground overworked by fluid layers of bright, loosely rendered brushstrokes.


    Georg Baselitz talks about Farewell Bill, at Gagosian, Britannia Street, London

    As Baselitz explains, the titles of all fifteen canvases are anagrams, composed of variations on the twenty-one letters that make up the phrase ‘Willem raucht nicht mehr’. Baseltiz had first encountered the work of de Kooning and other Abstract Expressionist painters at a pivotal moment as a student in West Berlin in the late 1950s when he visited the epoch-defining Die neue amerikanische Malerei. While artists like Jackson Pollock were working in an American vernacular, de Kooning infused this new language with a distinctly European cadence that resonated with Baselitz and his post-war peers. Importantly, de Kooning never completely abandoned figuration, even as he pushed abstraction into ever more expressionistic territory, providing especially fertile ground for the young Baselitz to begin developing his own painterly language.

    As Richard Calvocoressi has detailed, certain convergences in the early 1980s might suggest that the younger Baseltiz was measuring himself against the great master of 20th century painting, the older artist creating his last, majestic canvases as the younger German artist was establishing himself on an international stage. As well showing alongside de Kooning in the Royal Academy’s historic 1981 exhibition A New Spirit in Painting, in the same year Baselitz’s first New York show opened with Xavier Fourcade – none other than de Kooning’s dealer. Wearing the ‘Zero’ cap that also features prominently in one of Baselitz’s monumental wood carvings, the figure here is rotated, recalling the artist’s early and critically acclaimed inverted portraits such as his first ever portrait of his wife, Elke, recently gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York by the artist himself.

    When Baselitz first turned his canvas on its head in 1969, he eroded ‘once and for all painting’s dependence on objects in the real world’, creating a strategy that encouraged viewers to focus on the precisely painterly, dynamic qualities of his compositions, rather than any descriptive elements. In this respect, Baseltiz was again engaging – albeit in an oblique manner – with de Kooning’s tendency to rework elements of his drawings and older compositions into new paintings which he would rotate as he completed them. Looking at Wal lam ruch mihr (Frebl aill lew), we might recall de Kooning’s own attempts to ‘free myself from the notion of top and bottom, left and right, from realism!’i



    i Willem de Kooning, quoted in Richard Calvocoressi, ‘Head Over Heels’, Georg Baselitz: Farewell Bill, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, London, 2014, p. 15.

    • Provenance

      Gagosian Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      London, Gagosian Gallery, Georg Baselitz: Farewell Bill, 13 February - 29 March 2014, p. 44 (illustrated, pp. 24, 24, 70-71 and 100)


Wel lam ruch nichtet mihr (Frebl aill lew)

signed, partially titled and dated 'G. Baselitz I.VI.2013 wel lam ruch nichtet mihr' on the reverse
oil on canvas
300 x 275 cm (118 1/8 x 108 1/4 in.)
Painted on 1 June 2013.

Full Cataloguing

£450,000 - 650,000 ‡♠

Sold for £571,500

Contact Specialist

Leonor de Osma
Head of Sale, 20th Century to Now
T +44 20 7901 7912
M +44 7584 086 052

20th Century to Now

London Auction 30 June 2023