Georg Baselitz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Through its evocative painterly surface and monumental scale, Hundekunst, painted in 2000, is exemplary of Georg Baselitz’s daring oeuvre. One of the most provocative painters of the twentieth century, the artist’s dramatic canvasses fully envelop the viewer, drawing us into his complex microcosms, constructed through his exquisite marriage of selected colour and expressionistic form. A paradigm of the artist’s iconic inversion technique, the present work conveys Baselitz’s progressive experimentation with altering our perception of images. The upturned works, such as Hundekunst, are a development of the artist’s revered Fracture series, in this case from a body of canvases executed in the winter of 1999 through to the spring of 2000 in which Baselitz explored the recurring motif of the dog. Expertly traversing the lines of figurative representation and abstraction, Hundekunst diverges from the artist’s earlier Hund paintings through his exploration of the psychoanalytic notions of Sigmund Freud. In the present work, translucent swathes of fluid paint wash over the picture plane, contrasting with the central figure of the petted dog; Baselitz creates both an aesthetic depth and visual levity, reflecting the various conceptual stratums which weave through the extensive canvas.

    Highly expressive in style and powerful in tonality, Baselitz’s work taps into recognised clichés and impulses, cracking them open to reveal an alternative picture. In Hundekunst, the artist transports the figure of the dog, man’s sidekick, to the centre of the large portrait, providing an open stage for the normally overlooked underdog. Instead of simply furnishing a classical or pastoral scene, here the dog is the focus of our gaze, commanding the canvas with its animated presence. Originating from a series of dog works, a selection of which were exhibited at Baselitz’s 2015 show, Sigmund’s Cave, at Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, the group developed Baselitz’s dog motif, evident in his earlier works. Paintings from the 1999 - 2000 series are also united in their repetition of the word ‘Sigmund’ which is daubed onto the upper centre of the present work, immediately notifying the viewer that in these works, language and form are in fact masks and codes of a Freudian universe. In Hundekunst, Baselitz’s inverted, largely symmetrical painting, with the recurring emblematic motif of the same shaggy dog, explores the unconscious, creating a painterly void where repressed thought is thrust to the fore. Everything that has been suppressed is at once flipped; suddenly Baselitz has turned the world on its head. Physically painting this series of works on the floor, the present lot is exemplary of the artist’s technique of crawling on all fours in his studio to create his canvasses, often leaving traceable feet and hand marks, like distant traces of primitive and carnal desire.

    The image of the dog in Baselitz’s oeuvre can also be traced to his earlier work, where dogs were utilised as heraldic symbols of an allegorical ideal. After moving to the Swabian countryside in 1966, Baselitz entered a new chapter in his practice and began working on his Fracture paintings, employing a visual library of traditional German motifs, such as huntsmen, bears, dogs and cows. Removing and redeploying elements of the composition, the artist created a new breed of aesthetic archetypes based on folkloric imagery. Through the fracturing of his idyllic protagonists, Baselitz removed their symbolic potency; surgically distorting the subject matter, the artist deconstructed motifs that had once been so proudly Germanic. Whereas other post war German artists, such as Gerhard Richter, obscured traumatic imagery of the Second World War in his pivotal photo paintings, focusing on the fleeting nature of nostalgic, scrapbook-like memories, Baselitz employed a form of expressive distortion to experiment with darker facades of cultural memory and the national psyche. With their muscular bodies and snubbed snouts, the dogs portrayed in the Fracture works are emblematic of the hardy life of the mythical rural ideal. Through Baselitz’s aesthetic dissection, their ferocity is minimalized, the viewer pitying the artist’s brutal act of severing their animalistic bodies.

    In the late sixties, Baselitz’s technique of rotating his canvasses 180 degrees further liberated his imagery from symbolic power, detracting the objectifying gaze of the viewer in order to free his robust dogs from subjective associations. In Hundekunst, the dog motif has become domesticated; the curled, long-haired coat of the dog is tactile, his innocent gaze loyal and trusting. Baselitz’s farm dogs are suddenly transfigured, now cherished, trained and petted by an anonymous hand. Yet despite its rendering as a well-loved pet, Baselitz’s dog is presented in an almost quasi-religious manner. As we gaze up at the central figure, the frenetic black brushstrokes of the artist channel a fervent vitality which fills the canvas. As we ardently gaze upwards, the creature appears like a mythic idol, although upside down. It is this biting wit, combined with the multiple readings of Baselitz’s work, which makes his canvasses so unique and continually intriguing.

    Self-referential in subject matter, Baselitz’s dogs perfectly convey the artist’s key preoccupation that our perception of events, people, animals, colours and shapes can be completely altered through presentation. Like a kaleidoscope the artist expertly filters subject matter through his variety of compositions and his rich tapestry of freed associations, completely altering the viewer’s opinion on every glance.



signed, titled, inscribed and dated ‘G. Baselitz “Hundekunst” 20. II. 2 12. XI. 2’ on the reverse
oil on canvas
232 x 143 cm (91 3/8 x 56 1/4 in.)
Painted in 2000.

£220,000 - 280,000 

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Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 5 October 2017