Lot 43
  • 43

Georg Baselitz

800,000 - 1,200,000 GBP
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  • Georg Baselitz
  • Ein Grosser Hund 
  • signed and dated 67/68; signed, titled and dated 67/68 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 162 by 130 cm. 63 3/4 by 51 1/8 in.


Galerie Knoedler, Zurich

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1983


Dieter Ronte, Hess Collection, Stuttgart 1989, p. 48, no. 35, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is deeper and richer in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Painted in the pivotal period of 1967-68, Georg Baselitz’s Ein Grosser Hund displays the inimitable painterly abandon and poignant symbolism that characterises the artist’s significant early series of Frakturbilder (Fracture paintings). Displaying extraordinary vigour from bold intuitive brushstrokes, Baselitz’s Ein Grosser Hund, presents the archetypal German symbol of the hunting dog, fractured and divided. Signalling a point of transition in concept, subject and style, Baselitz masterfully crafts an arcane mythology and creates a brazenly irreverent pictorial schema that tears apart the historical conventions of painting. Baselitz’s ruthless insistence on difference and his unique ability to carve an idiosyncratic space for himself within the Neo-Expressionist idiom enabled him to navigate a painterly landscape in which it would seem that all possibility for innovation had been depleted. Attested to by his representation across the most significant international public collections, it is in this vein that Baselitz remains one of the most influential painters of his generation.

In moving from East Germany to West Berlin in 1957 and becoming an official resident there in 1958, Baselitz reacted against the constraints of the two contrasting artistic and political landscapes that he had traversed. Shifting from the dogma of Socialist Realism to the aesthetic hegemony of fashionable Tachism and Abstract Expressionism that dominated Western Europe at the time, Baselitz founded an entirely new visual mode of expression in order to liberate German painting from what he saw as the burden of its recent past: “When I make my paintings,” Baselitz declared, “I begin to do things as if I were the first, the only one, as if none of these examples existed” (Georg Baselitz cited in: Exh. Cat., Bordeaux, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Baselitz Sculptures, 1983, p. 18). The mid-1960s signalled the true attainment of this new ground. Coinciding with the creation of his Helden (Hero) series from 1965-66, Baselitz moved his family to the remote German countryside in search of isolation: “I started to cut myself off from the others, completely shutting myself away, didn’t join in art circles and tried to develop pictures that would, yes, provoke” (Georg Baselitz cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, Baselitz, 2007, p. 11). Maintaining a distance from academic art as well as a burgeoning German avant-garde led by Joseph Beuys, here Baselitz created new archetypes based on the traditional folkloric imagery of woodlands, animals and huntsmen.

The symbolic appearance of the dog, which had already featured in the Helden (Hero) paintings, drew inspiration from German Romanticism, such as Ludwig Richter’s Lake in the Riesengebirge of 1839 in the Nationalgalerie, Berlin that shows the artist walking across a wild landscape accompanied by a boy and a dog. As Andreas Franzke expands: “It is these dogs that set the precedent of climbing up the pictorial surface, emancipated from the laws of gravity, in a way that heralds the transition to Baselitz’s later practice of inverting his motifs” (Andreas Franzke, Georg Baselitz, Munich 1989, p. 92). As an early example of Baselitz’s iconic Frakturbilder, the two dogs that comprise the composition are severed by two diagonal lines running across the canvas, disavowing any claims to naturalism and calling into question the relative coherence of the two viewpoints. Mocking the illusionism of three point perspective – a cornerstone of classical painting – Baselitz’s contemptuous disruption of the image plane overrides the perspectival challenges laid out in modernist movements such as Cubism with an irreverent appeal to the absurd. As such, Baselitz claims an ultimate abandon of precedent. This is equally reflected in the unparalleled peculiarity of his brushwork which circulates around in exquisite dissonance. As noted by Richard Schiff, “Baselitz never allowed his marks to become calligraphy, that is, to become beautiful in themselves. Each attains its own ugliness by becoming a bit too big […]. Oversized, coarsened, each pulls apart from its neighbor even when it is part of a decorative pattern, resulting in pockets of local disharmony” (Richard Schiff, ‘Feet too Big’, in: Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, Baselitz, 2007, p. 27). Ein Grosser Hund finds Baselitz's brushwork at its most confident, ordered and supple. Masterfully layering and blending tones with an unusual sense of delicacy and care, Baselitz imbues his forms with volume and depth. Evidencing his sheer mastery of this idiosyncratic painterly style, the present work’s pervasive sense of cohesive logic creates a vision that explores a profoundly strange beauty in the heart of aesthetic turmoil.