Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE HUBERTUS WALD CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Fingermalerei-Birken (Finger Painting- Birch Trees)

Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Fingermalerei-Birken (Finger Painting- Birch Trees)
signed, titled and dated 'G. Baselitz 1972 Fingermalerei- Birken' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63 7/8 x 51 1/8in. (162 x 130cm.)
Painted in 1972
Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg.
Hubertus Wald, Hamburg, by whom acquired from the above by the present owner in 1976.
Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Bologna, Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, 1997, p. 185 (illustrated in colour, p. 26).
Kassel, Documenta V, 1972.
Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Georg Baselitz-Bilder 1964 - 1972, 1972.
Vienna, Wiener Secession, Georg Baselitz Bäume, 1986, no. 10 (illustrated, p. 34, titled Fingermalerei-Birken II).
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Sammlung Wald, 2003.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Francis Outred
Francis Outred

Lot Essay

'The object expresses nothing at all. Painting is not a means to an end. On the contrary, painting is autonomous. And I said to myself: if this is the case, then I must take everything, which has been an object of painting - landscape, the portrait and the nude, for example - and paint it upside-down. That is the best way to liberate representation from content' (G. Baselitz quoted in D. Waldman (ed.), Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 71).

'The hierarchy, which has located the sky at the top and the earth at the bottom is, in any case, only a convention. We have got used to it, but we don't have to believe in it. The only thing that interests me is the question of how I can carry on painting pictures' (G. Baselitz quoted in D. Waldman (ed.), Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1995, p. 72).

Exhibited to great acclaim at Documenta V in 1972, Fingermalerei-Birken is an iconic and majestic woodland landscape by Georg Baselitz. Created at the height of his practice, the painting has a sense of primordial splendour, with pure and radiant colour freely applied to the canvas. Cobalt blue illuminates the picture, clear, cold and crisp like a winter's sky. The inverted ground is covered with dense foliage and bracken, frozen white, with warm red tones roughly interspersed. The branches of the tall silver birch trees stretch down to the base of the composition, as if by the force of gravity, their elegant forms providing a counterpoint to the raw energy of the heavily gestured painting. As intimated by the work's title, in Fingermalerei-Birken Baselitz uses his fingers dipped in languid paint to modulate the surface of the canvas. The artist first began to use this technique in 1972 when he relocated to a new studio in Musbach on the edge of the Black Forest. In doing so, he furnished a new intimacy and intense physical connection with his materials; a relationship that is apparent in Fingermalerei-Birken's deeply emotional aesthetic. The origins of this style can be seen in the exhibition The New American Painting, which Baselitz visited in 1958. The show curated by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. included the works of Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Baselitz was especially impressed by the work of Pollock and Guston and in Fingermalerei-Birken, the artist's fluency with paint, overlapped and clustered application of colour recalls the Abstract Expressionists' distinctive approaches.

In Fingermalerei-Birken, Baselitz inverts his woodland scene. In doing so, he not only celebrates the medium, the materiality of the paint, but also endorses a new and radically unconventional way of seeing. As Schulamith Behr has suggested, 'turning the motif on its head is prescient in its consequences: for the viewer, acceptance of the inverted world as a new pictorial convention - or revival of an archaism - requires an ontological shift in defiance of experiential knowledge' (S. Behr quoted in N. Rosenthal (ed.), Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, p. 121). Baselitz began this strategy in his painting, Woodsmen (1967-68), which included an overturned figure of a man. This was further elaborated in The Wood on Its Head (1969), the first work in which he entirely inverted a composition. Here the artist borrows his image from Dresden realist Louis Ferdinand von Rayski and a reproduction of his frozen Teutonic landscape, Wermsdorfer Wald (Wermsdorf Wood) (1859). Fingermalerei-Birken presents the same ice-blue winter scene with three silver birch trees suspended upside-down in a mysterious, but graceful composition.

As Elias Canetti has observed, the practice of turning a forest on its head has unique connotations in Germany: 'Not in any modern nation in the world has the spirit of identification with the forest [Waldgefühl] remained so vital' (E. Canetti quoted in N. Rosenthal (ed.), Georg Baselitz, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, p. 121). Like his paintings depicting the historically resonant Adler or eagle: standard of ancient Rome, infamous emblem of the Nazi party and archetype in the writings of Carl Jung, the forest is equally bound up in Germanic folklore and the cultural memory of the people. In Fingermalerei-Birken, Baselitz pointedly subverts the forest's symbolic power as signifier for the nation. At the same time, the painted imagery also betrays his own nostalgia for his Saxon homeland in East Germany.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

View All
View All