Lot 39
  • 39


320,000 - 380,000 GBP
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  • Georg Baselitz
  • Gelb no
  • signed, titled and dated 10.IV.91 – 20.IV.91 on the reverse 
  • oil on canvas
  • 300 by 249.5 cm. 118 1/8 by 99 1/4 in.


Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
Phillips, New York, 14 May 2015, Lot 50
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Hammergreen: New Paintings by Georg Baselitz, October - November 1991, n.p., no. 10, illustrated in colour
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstifung; Edinburgh, National Gallery of Modern Art; Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst, Stiftung Ludwig, Georg Baselitz: Retrospective 1964 - 1991, March - September 1992, n.p., no. 39, illustrated in colour
Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain Bordeaux, Les pensées bleues; Georg Baselitz, Enzo Cucchi, Wolfgang Laib, Nam June Paik, Jean-Pierre Raynaud proposés par Mustapha Boujemaoui, September - November 1993, p. 25, illustrated in colour
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Georg Baselitz, October 1996 - January 1997, p. 118, no. 40, illustrated in colour
Bologna, Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Georg Baselitz, May - September 1997, p. 116, illustrated in colour, and pp. 118-19, illustrated (in installation at Hammergreen: New Paintings by Georg Baselitz, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, 1991)


Edward Quinn, Georg Baselitz: Eine fotografische Studie von Edward Quinn, Bern 1993, p. 236, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although they are more vibrant overall, and the green and black pigment is slightly darker in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Surface irregularities, drips and splashes to the white primed canvas appear to be inherent to the artist's working process. Close inspection reveals some minor wear and handling marks in a few places to the extreme outer edges. Further inspection reveals minor canvas draw owing to slightly slackened tension overall. The paint surface fluoresces unevenly when examined under ultra violet light; no restoration is apparent.
"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

“Painting is not a means to an end. On the contrary; painting is autonomous. And I said to myself: if this is the case, then I must take everything which has been an object of painting – landscape, the portrait and the nude, for example – and paint it upside-down. That is the best way to liberate representation from content.”
Georg Baselitz cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Guggenheim Museum, Georg Baselitz, 1995, p. 71. Executed in 1991, Georg Baselitz’s monumental Gelb no potently embodies the German artist’s radical and subversive approach to painting. Standing nearly ten feet tall, the work portrays two inverted and fragmentary figures juxtaposed against a vast white background. The work comes from Baselitz’s iconic – and ironic – body of upside-down paintings which sought to elevate style, form and painterly expression over content and composition. Initiated in 1969, this revolutionary series saw the artist both literally and metaphorically flip his subject matter on its head, in order to forge a new pictorial language befitting of a post-war world in disarray. Indeed, rendered with loose and gestural brushstrokes, the monolithic figures in the present work threaten to dissolve into pure and unbridled abstraction. As the artist stated in an interview in 1995: "I was born into a destroyed order, a destroyed landscape, a destroyed people, a destroyed society. And I didn't want to reestablish an order: I had seen enough of so-called order. I was forced to question everything, to be 'naive', to start again" (Georg Baselitz, ‘Goth to Dance: Donald Kuspit Talks with Georg Baselitz’, Artforum 33, No. 10, 1995, p. 76). Selected by the artist for exhibition in some of the most important institutional shows of his career, including at d'Offay Gallery, London (1991); Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (1992); Musée d'Art Moderne, Paris (1996); and Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna (1997), to name only a few, Gelb no stands as a work of great eminence within Baselitz's oeuvre. 

Using both his hands and feet to press, rub, smear and meld paint directly onto the canvas in Gelb no, Baselitz imbues his painting with a raw and tactile quality. The paintwork is gestural and primitive: each mark, movement and flick of paint is clearly visible upon the surface. As the title elusively infers, the yellow pigment that comprises the foundations of the figure to the left of the canvas has been crudely and cogently erased by an explosion of violet paint, as if in an attempt to obfuscate the luminous colour entirely from the composition. This weighty and stoic figure is offset by a fractured and delicate counterpart to his right, who has been all but obliterated by sweeping licks of forest green and inky black paint. Rapidly executed, the brushy and dynamic marks seem intuitively applied. Born in Germany in 1938, Baselitz’s most formative years took place under a time of great political upheaval, from the Nazi regime to the severity of Soviet-controlled East Berlin. Poignantly contending with an intangible and incomprehensible world, Gelb no stands as a paradigm of the artist’s celebrated inversion paintings.