Walter Bareiss, Salach
Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York
Hans Grothe Collection (acquired from the above in 1995)
Christie's, New York, Post-War Evening Sale, 13 November 2001, Lot 19
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Gesammelte Räume-Gesammelte Träume: Kunst aus Deutschland von 1960 bis 2000: Bilder und Räume aus der Sammlung Grothe, 1999-2000, p. 107, no. 13, illustrated in colour
Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Georg Baselitz, 2007, p. 20, illustrated in colour (incorrectly titled)
The forest – that most Germanic of environments – provided a crucial backdrop for Baselitz’s work in the 1960s. To frame his paintings in this environment gave them a folkloric traditional atmosphere and identified Baselitz with great German painters of the past, such as Casper David Friedrich, who regularly painted vast woodland landscapes. In the present work, we can not only take notice of the large birch tree that climbs the left hand side of the painting, but also of the hunting dog, whose muzzled visage pokes into the right hand side. The title even heralds the central protagonist as a Grüner – a folkloric ‘Green Man’. It might further be assumed that the forest held some personal significance for Baselitz, who not only moved to the small countryside village of Osthofen the year before the present work’s creation, but had also applied to a local forestry school as a young man when still in East Germany; this propensity for forestry was made especially obvious in his later chainsaw sculptures.
Grüner mit Birke is an archetypal Baselitz painting. Its freer looser style and corporeal dislocation exemplify the emphases of the concurrent Frakturbilder, while the mood is imbued the uneasy disjuncture that is in keeping with the best of this artist’s oeuvre. Moreover, through its evocation of a forest scene, it speaks of a traditional folkloric German art tradition with which this artist has always been at great pains to identify himself, as posited by the eminent German author, Elias Cannetti: “not in any modern nation in the world has that spirit of identification with the forest [Waldgefühl] remained so vital” (Elias Cannetti quoted in: ibid., p. 121).
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