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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… 显示更多 TWO MASTERPIECES BY GEORG BASELITZ FROM THE HESS ART COLLECTION

Elke I

Elke I
signed and dated ‘G. Baselitz 1975' (lower right); signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'Elke 1 G baselitz 1975 Derneburg' (on the overlap); signed, titled, inscribed and dated '1975 Derneburg G Baselitz Elke 1' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
63 3/4 x 51 1/8in. (162 x 130cm.)
Painted in 1975
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1976.
D. Ronte, Hess Collection, New York 1989, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, p. 49).
D. Gretenkort (ed.), Georg Baselitz: Paintings 1962-2001, Milan 2002, p. 221 (illustrated in colour, p. 88).
L. Cuénoud (ed.), Georg Baselitz Works from the Hess Collection, Bern 2003, pp. 48 and 54 (illustrated in colour, p. 55, titled 'Elke 1 - Derneburg').
Forme per il David / Forms for the David, exh. cat., Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 2004-2005 (illustrated in colour, p. 274).
Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Bilder einer Ausstellung, 1979, no. 1, p. 6 (illustrated, p. 3).
Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Georg Baselitz: Portraits of Elke, 1997-1999, pp. 44 and 120, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, p. 45). This exhibition later travelled to Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art; Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art and Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey.
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Georg Baselitz en la Colección Hess, 2003-2004, no. 4, pp. 48 and 54 (illustrated in colour, p. 55). This exhibition later travelled to Bern, Kunstmuseum Bern.
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Baselitz, une seule passion, la peinture, 2006, pp. 150 and 165, no. 30 (illustrated in colour, pp. 45 and 151).
Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Georg Baselitz, 2007, no. 34 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Salzburg, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Georg Baselitz. Gemälde und Skulpturen 1960–2008, 2009, p. 90 (illustrated in colour, p. 91).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.


Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale


Acquired directly from the artist by the Hess Art Collection shortly after it was made, Elke I (1975) is a luminous portrait of Baselitz’s wife, Elke, painted in his revolutionary upside-down style. Captured in expressive, glowing strokes of cobalt, violet, gold and umber against a pearlescent white ground, Elke is painted with a warmth and tenderness that speaks of Baselitz’s love for her: the couple have been married since 1962, and Elke’s likeness is one of his most important and frequent painterly subjects. Widely exhibited during its lifetime, Elke I was included in the landmark touring retrospective Georg Baselitz: Portraits of Elke that opened at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas in 1997, and in the major 2009 survey Georg Baselitz: Gemälde und Skulpturen 1960–2008 at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Portraits of Elke from the mid-1970s are held in major museum collections worldwide, including Elke (1976, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas), 2 Elke (1976, Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, NY) and Akt Elke (1976-1977, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven).

Donald M. Hess, a Swiss-born collector, entrepreneur and winery magnate, began a long friendship with Baselitz and Elke upon meeting them in 1976. Elke I was his first acquisition by the artist. Hess had first seen Baselitz’s works in person in January that year in an exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern organised by Johannes Gachnang. In December, Hess and Gachnang went to visit Baselitz and Elke at their new residence of Schloss Derneburg, an enormous castle in Lower Saxony. ‘[In] the dining room’, Hess recalled, ‘there was a portrait of his wife Elke that captivated me; of all the paintings I had seen in Derneburg, I told Georg, this was the work I wanted to acquire. Unfortunately it was not for sale as it belonged to Elke.’ A few weeks later, however, Baselitz wrote to tell Hess that Elke had chosen another painting and that he was free to buy Elke I. ‘I was most grateful to Elke’, Hess wrote, ‘and happy to enjoy a painting of Georg’s every day at home’ (D. M. Hess, ‘Foreword’, in Georg Baselitz: Works from the Hess Collection, Berne 2003, p. 8).

Painted the year of the couple’s move to Derneburg—which would be their home for the next three decades—the present painting heralds a period in which Baselitz worked at an increasingly ambitious scale, and with a heightened concern for his compositions’ formal power. Inspired early in his career by the drama of American Abstract Expressionism, it was not until he was installed in this new environment that Baselitz felt able to grapple formally with the grand ‘all-over’ surfaces of the New York School in his paintings. Here, against the light-filled backdrop, Elke’s raised left arm and the brisk diagonals of her clothing create a dynamic painterly structure that matches the vigour and vibrancy of a work by Franz Kline or Willem de Kooning. Baselitz deploys a complex array of textures and techniques, from dilute washes of pigment to broad, impastoed strokes, sgraffito flourishes and marbled, wet-on-wet areas of hatching.

The vertical drips in Elke I are evidence of Baselitz’s process: he does not invert finished pictures but paints them in their upside-down orientation, working, in the case of the portraits, from a photograph held in one hand. Baselitz had used this method since 1969 as a way of ‘emptying’ his pictures of convention, and neutralising their associated meaning—a reaction to the ravaged cultural landscape of post-war Germany. His paintings of Elke provided a special challenge in this sense, their purely painterly concerns entangled with inevitable feeling. ‘I try to keep a neutral attitude but it’s impossible to stop personal things from getting mixed up with it’, said Baselitz. ‘I don’t illustrate Elke. If anything, I try to remove her, but I usually can’t. She comes into the process whether I want it or not, through the back of my mind’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in M. Auping, ‘Georg Baselitz: Portraits of Elke’, in Georg Baselitz: Portraits of Elke, exh. cat. Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth 1997, p. 12).

In painting his wife, Baselitz joins a long line of artists, from Rembrandt to Picasso, who took their art to new frontiers by painting their partners. The tension between his intimacy with the subject and his painterly push for ‘neutrality’ lends the Elke portraits a distinct charge, testing the limits of his central formal premise. Rather than being voided of meaning, they are inflected anew and taken to unfamiliar territory. Michael Auping has likened the portraits to Jasper Johns’ paintings of flags: they both are and are not what they appear to be, at once abstracting their subject and affirming it in a fresh light. Baselitz’s contemporary Gerhard Richter has observed the dynamic in similar terms. ‘[By] being turned through 180 degrees,’ Richter wrote in 1985, ‘his figures are said to lose their objective nature and become “pure painting”. The opposite is true: there is an added stress on the objectivity, which takes on a new substance’ (G. Richter, ‘Notes, 1985’, in D. Elger and H. U. Obrist (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Text: Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007, London 2009, p. 140). This ‘new substance’ is what gives the Elke portraits their magic.

Baselitz has also painted a number of full-length double portraits of himself and Elke together, as if to picture the impossibility of the artist removing his own feelings from the canvas. ‘When you are painting a figure you are not thinking about a story,’ he says, ‘you are thinking about the body, what it can do and how you can experience it through paint. You paint using your own body, and that is part of how you identify with your subject, a form of empathy’ (G. Baselitz, quoted in M. Auping, ibid., p. 16). Elke I is imbued with this empathic glow: immersed both physically and emotionally in an image almost his own height, Baselitz could not help but paint his devotion into the picture. By looking at his loved one from a new perspective, he makes a statement not of painting’s detached autonomy from the world, but its enduring power to represent the deepest and most unbreakable of bonds.

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