Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF FRANZ MEYER AND PIA MEYER FEDERSPIEL
Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)

Mädchen kommt - Ralf

Georg Baselitz (b. 1938)
Mädchen kommt - Ralf
signed with the artist's initials and dated '17.IX.87 GB' (lower right); signed, titled and dated '11.IX.87-17.IX.87 G. Baselitz 'Mädchen kommt - Ralf' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 ¾ x 63 5/8in. (200 x 162cm.)
Painted in 1987
Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
Franz Meyer, Zurich.
Pia Meyer Federspiel, Zurich.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, L'éternel féminin, 1990, no. 4 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
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Lot Essay

‘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.’ – Georg Baselitz

‘The ‘80s helped me to rearrange everything; I was able to set up a whole range of ideas and experiences anew, which meant I was able to break everything down so I could make something out of it again.’ – Georg Baselitz

Mädchen Kommt – Ralf (Woman Comes – Ralf) is a colossal woman set against a black background, a small halo of crystalline blue sky encircling her torso, one in a series of semi-naked female figures that Georg Baselitz painted in the 1980s. The work was acquired by Franz Meyer, the former director of the Kunsthalle Bern and the Kunstmuseum Basel, and a friend and supporter of Baselitz. Meyer and his wife Pia have held the work in their collection ever since. Executed in 1987 in his signature inverted configuration, Baselitz’s woman is naked with a wild mane of black hair. Gorgon-like, she stares determinedly outwards, unrestrained by the green fencing. As a title, Mädchen Kommt – Ralf is a reference to the artist A. R. Penck, real name Ralf Winkler, who was a close friend of Baselitz’s; together, they studied at the High School for Creative and Applied Art in East Berlin. Penck’s paintings were filled with pseudo primitive naïve figures inhabiting worlds of scratches, swirls and zigzags. In the upper right hand corner of Mädchen Kommt – Ralf, a very Penck-like black bedraggled dog tenses mid-bark. Franz Meyer, the former director of Kunsthalle Bern and the Kunstmuseum Basel, was a lifelong friend and support of Baselitz. Baselitz began painting upside down in the mid-1960s, in doing so, he liberates his subjects from an understanding informed by a literal reading or, in the example of the present work, conventions of portraiture; instead, the painting is governed by what he termed a ‘pictorial gravity’ (G. Baselitz quoted in C. Spies, ‘The Cave of Painting,’ Baselitz, Berlin, 2018, p. 30). As a technique, painting upside down allows Baselitz to reconceptualise his motifs without fully entering the realm of abstraction. As the artist stated, ‘The hierarchy of sky above and ground down below is … only a pact that we have admittedly got used to but that one absolutely doesn’t have to believe in’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in R. Calvocoressi, ‘Head Over Heels’, Farewell Bill: Willem Raucht Nicht Mehr, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, London, 2014, p. 15). Meaning is determined by its own signifiers, tied the form and physicality of the paint itself, independent of the history of aesthetics. Baselitz’s women are demonstrative, and this series evinces a Willelm de Kooning-like obsession with the female form. For both, flesh served as a sensuous canvas for a rich accumulation of colour. In fact, de Kooning was long an influence for Baselitz, who first encountered the artist’s work in the touring exhibition New American Painting in 1958. Baselitz remembered that although he also loved the Jackson Pollock paintings on view ‘de Kooning had much greater influence because his painting was European, or of European origin, and its means of depiction were more easily comprehended’ (G. Baselitz quoted in J. Wullschlager, ‘Georg Baselitz’s influences and evolution’, The Financial Times, March 7, 2014). As much as the body itself may be abstracted, in his essence, Baselitz is a figurative painter, metaphor shaped by colour and association open to a plurality of interpretations. In Mädchen Kommt – Ralf, the inverting act turns the woman onto herself and imbues the painting with a sense of interiority revealed through paint.

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