Thorn in the flesh Baselitz in London: in his restrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy Georg Baselitz emerges as an artist who provocatively brings bold techniques to bear on a few deeply felt themes, writes Corinna Lotz. Above all, he has said, 'what I could never escape was Germany and being German'

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Author: Corinna Lotz
Date: Nov. 2007
From: Apollo(Vol. 166, Issue 548)
Publisher: Apollo Magazine Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,134 words
Lexile Measure: 1290L

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In a memorable line in Marion Brando's 1953 film The Wild One Mildred asks biker Johnny what he is rebelling against. 'Whaddya got?' he drawls. Georg Baselitz shares this need to be a contrarian, a thorn in the flesh. Again and again this agent provocateur finds ways to shock, to depict the undepictable, by mining the human psyche and German history. Yet in a 1963 photograph in which he poses next to his notorious rendering of a masturbator, The Big Night Down the Drain, he looks like an ordinary, modest, bespectacled student in a neat shirt and cardigan--hardly someone likely to be arrested for an 'infringement of public morality', as subsequently happened.

Walking through this beautifully-paced retrospective, it is hard to think of a contemporary painter who is more deeply wrapped up--one might say entrapped--in the history and artistic traditions of the last century. Indeed, the paean to Baselitz that the exhibition's curator, Norman Rosenthal, has written for the catalogue emphasises the wide range of art-historical sources that have shaped him. The influences are many and varied, but the subject matter is highly restricted, deliberately inward looking, whilst deploying the boldest techniques on a huge scale.

Baselitz, like others of his generation, including Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, reacted against both the artistic abstraction prevailing in the west and the state-imposed Socialist Realist style in the German Democratic Republic. Obsessed with the zeitgeist and German identity, he has said 'I was born into a destroyed order'. He told a press conference in Vienna last January: "What no one can escape, what I could never escape, was Germany and being German.'

The scene is set with the Great Friends, New Types and Heroes series...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A171400921