Georg Baselitz was born Hans-Georg Kern in 1938 in Saxony, an area that later became part of East Germany. In 1956, whilst studying painting at the Academy of Art in East Berlin, he was expelled for ‘political immaturity‘ for not having conformed to DDR standards in art. He then applied to the Academy in West Berlin and moved there in 1958, completing his studies in 1962. During this period he adopted the surname Baselitz, reflecting his place of birth, Deutschbaselitz. His first solo exhibition took place in 1963 in Berlin. A public scandal arose when several paintings were confiscated by the German authorities on the grounds of public indecency. In the mid-1960s Baselitz embarked on a series of paintings depicting monumental male figures which he described as Rebels, Shepherds or A New Type (‘Ein neuer Typ’). Baselitz placed himself within the Romantic tradition but subverted the hero figure by using the trope as a commentary on German culture. These paintings are often referred to as the ‘Hero’ (‘Helden’) series and were clearly influenced by Italian Mannerist paintings and prints which Baselitz had seen for the first time whilst on a scholarship to Florence in 1965. Four years later, Baselitz was to introduce what became the signature motif for the next 50 years, by depicting all his imagery upside down.
By the 1980s the artist had established his international reputation with exhibitions at the Venice Biennale 1980 and at Documenta in 1983. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the artist’s work became denser and more heavily worked. Previous ambiguous references to German history became far more overt. A prolific printmaker, Baselitz continues to engage with various technical processes, working extensively in woodcut, linocut and etching. He describes the resistant qualities of copper plates, wood blocks and linoleum blocks as creative forces in his art and has referred to prints as having "symbolic power which has nothing to do with a painting." He is also known for distinctive printed surfaces created with oil paint rather than traditional printer's ink. As well as having his own printing press, Baselitz favours working with a selection of leading print studios and master printers to realise his graphic works.
His paintings, sculptures and prints are in the collections of museums around the world. Recent solo exhibitions include simultaneous retrospectives of drawing at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, and painting and sculpture at the Beyeler Foundation, a show which will travel to the Hischhorn Museum, Washington D.C in the autumn of 2018. Exhibitions of Baselitz’s work have also taken place at CAFA Art Museum, Beijing; Fire Station, Doha (2017); Tate Modern London (2015); Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2009); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007); Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen (2006); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1996); Guggenheim Museum, New York (1995); Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris (1990) and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1983).