A Raging Bull Who Lost His Punch ; EXHIBITION Georg Baselitz

Article excerpt

Royal Academy .

NO MOVEMENT in art has expressed the angst of history better than the German Neo-Expressionists, the post-war movement that specialised in visceral, impassioned oil painting.

And no Neo-Expressionist expressed more angst in his work than Georg Baselitz, who became famous for painting the icons of German history eagles, soldiers and forests upside-down.

As this exhibition a first retrospective for the artist in this country quickly reveals, the inverted canvas was just one of the ways Baselitz painted pain.

A serious student of Goya, Antonin Artaud and of outsider art, Baselitz's first important series of works from the early Sixties depicted vulnerable human figures, or parts thereof, set against a dark background in a thickly-applied, oily palette of red and brown.

Titles like Sex with Dumplings suggest the sensations of psychological perversion and torment with which these paintings overwhelm the viewer..

Over the following two decades, Baselitz continued to develop, making paintings, woodcuts and sculptures. There were stark biblical images of soldiers and shepherds; then came fragmented pictures of men with dogs and roughly hewn, crudely painted wooden sculptures of human figures, which looked like the totems of a lost tribe. …