Grosser Kopf [Large Head] (1966)
About this artwork
This is one of Baselitz's earliest woodcuts. It was made after a trip to Florence, where he became interested in Italian Mannerist painting. The fractured face, overlaid with worm-like forms, is characteristic of his paintings of the same time, in which parts of the figures are cut up and rearranged or are missing altogether. The imagery may be influenced by the death and destruction of the Second World War; the shapes in the background look like smoke, which would support this reading.
Georg Kern was born near Dresden in East Germany and studied art in both East and West Germany. He took the surname Baselitz from his place of birth in 1961, the year the Berlin Wall was built. Baselitz is credited with reintroducing the figure, as well a sense of history (a problematic issue in post-war Germany), into German painting, though he did this in a deeply sceptical, ambiguous way. In 1969 he caused controversy for his paintings in which the images were painted upside down. This was a device to take the focus off the subject matter and highlight the expressive and formal qualities of the painting style.