Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
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Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Der Soldat - Die Dresdner Frauen

Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Der Soldat - Die Dresdner Frauen
cadmium yellow and egg tempera on carved copperbeech
47¾ x 24 1/3 x 12in. (122 x 62.5 x 31cm.)
Executed in 1989
Pace Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Pace Gallery, Georg Baselitz: The Women of Dresden, October-November 1990 (illustrated, p. 19).
Basel, Kunstmuseum, Transform : BildObjektSkulptur im 20. Jahrhundert, June-September 1992.
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Lot Essay

Executed in 1989, Der Soldat appears wartorn, scarred by the furious exertions of the sculptor, Georg Baselitz. Covered in the same cadmium yellow of his celebrated Women of Dresden series, this sculpture has an elemental energy. It appears pared back, like some strange archetype. It has an archaic quality, and yet the surface speaks of a very modern expressionism.

With its gouged surface, Der Soldat is a testimony to the artistic process itself. Just as, by turning his paintings upside down, Baselitz had demanded that the viewer reappraise them not so much as figurative motifs but instead as painted objects, so here the chiselling speaks of the artistic mark. We can trace the frantic actions that have led to the gradual cutting away of the wood to create this pared-back human head. In creating his sculptures, Baselitz usually takes a single tree and whittles frantically away, with saw and chisel alike, until it takes its final form, a form that is in part dictated by the tree itself, by the way that the wood falls away. In this way, in his direct reaction to the material itself, Baselitz links himself to antecedents such as Gauguin, Brancusi and Kirchner, as Diane Waldman pointed out in her Guggenheim exhibition catalogue. Discussing this process, Baselitz himself has said:

'In sculpture, using the saw is an aggressive process which is the equivalent of drawing. It's a linear signal... By working in wood, I want to avoid all manual dexterity, all artistic elegance, everything to do with construction. I don't want to construct anything' (Baselitz, quoted in D. Waldman, Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., New York, 1995, p. 100).

Rather than take his cue from any Western sculptural tradition, he looked to the combination of freshness and heritage that has informed so much African sculpture. The European tradition, he feels, is the result of a continuous process of reaction to predecessors: Renaissance artists reacted to the medievals who had reacted to the Romans who had reacted to the Greeks and so forth. In Africa, forms that had been consolidated centuries ago continue to have their relevance, in part because of the ritualistic and atavistic roles that those objects play. Baselitz, an artist who has constantly mined his past and that of Germany in his art, has created something that has not only the expressionistic features of tribal sculptural prototypes but that also is a creation in its own right, no kneejerk kick against any heritage but instead something fresh, personal, immediate, raw and therefore wholly authentic.

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