Skarstedt Gallery is pleased to announce Georg Baselitz: Devotion, opening at 66 Newtown Lane in East Hampton on Friday June 24th. The exhibition will feature a selection of etchings from his 2018 series, Devotion, which were first shown at the Alan Cristea Gallery in London in 2019. Featuring re-interpreted self-portraits of predecessors and peers who have made a meaningful impact on Baselitz, from Otto Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to Nicole Eisenman and Tracey Emin, the series explores themes of lineage, memory, influence, inspiration, appropriation, and art history.
The impetus for Devotion was born out of a trip Baselitz took to the Kunstmuseum Basel in 2018. While there, he happened upon a painting by Henri Rousseau entitled La Muse inspirant le poet (Marie Laurencin et Guillaume Apollinaire) [The Muse Inspires the Poet (Marie Laurencin and Guillaume Apollinaire) (1909). Afterward, Baselitz remembered the couple as a double portrait of Rousseau and his wife. Drawn to its naïve style and misremembered subject, he first attempted to use the painting as a basis for a double portrait of himself and his wife, Elke. While that idea was ultimately abandoned, his misinterpretation of the painting sparked another, more fruitful idea in Baselitz: when viewing a portrait, the artist becomes more perceptible than the subject itself. Therefore, the works in the Devotion suite become as much a representation of Baselitz as they are of their sitters.
The artist had the first inkling to use an individual to speak to broader themes as early as 1960 while working on a set of portraits of the nineteenth-century German painter Ferdinand von Rayski—who reappears in Devotion—and again in 1969 while creating his first series of upside-down portraits. Although those paintings were represented in a more matter-of-fact style and intended primarily as investigations into his upside-down technique, they nevertheless revealed to Baselitz how what he paints reveals something about who he is.
The source images for the present works are all derived from self-portraits by the artists chosen for the series. For some subjects, such as Andy Warhol, there were many preexisting images from which to pull. For others, such as Lucio Fontana or Clyfford Still, Baselitz was required to search far back to their earlier careers or student days when they were still finding their styles, discovering experimental self-portraits they had made. Others still, as with Nicole Eisenman, are an amalgamation of many different reference images. Whatever the case, each work evinces his line of thinking, influences, and range of taste, together creating a captivating homage to those he admires.