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Exhibition in Dresden presents a selection of Georg Baselitz's graphic works
German artist Georg Baselitz poses at the Kupferstich-Kabinett on March 2, 2018 in Dresden, eastern Germany, on the eve of the opening of the exibition titled "Baselitz Maniera: Nonconformism as a Source of Imagination", focusing on his reception of Mannerism. The exhibition takes place from March 3 to May 27, 2018 as Georg Baselitz celebrates his 80th birthday in 2018. Sebastian Kahnert / dpa / AFP.

DRESDEN.- Georg Baselitz (born in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony) is considered one of the world’s greatest masters of contemporary painting. This mastery is also reflected in an especially subtle manner in his graphic art. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, the Kupferstich-Kabinett (Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs) at Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) is holding a large exhibition presenting a selection of his graphic works from the past five decades in context with German, Italian and Dutch Old Master prints. It is focused on, but not restricted to, Mannerism.

The exhibition “Baselitz Maniera – Nonconformism as a source of imagination” is showing a total of 143 pieces from the Kupferstich-Kabinett’s own archive, from the collection of Günther and Annemarie Gercken, from the G. and A. Gercken Foundation at the SKD and from Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. This concentrated selection shows clearly how, even in his graphic works, Baselitz on the one hand deliberately stays loyal to a representational style while, on the other hand, questioning and redefining it by pushing it to the verge of abstraction.

Even in the early days of his career, Baselitz was interested in the many facets of the graphic arts, both as an artist and as a collector. A study visit to Villa Romana in Florence in 1965 reinforced this affinity while at the same time directing his main interest towards the art of Mannerism. Ever since, he has persistently collected Mannerist prints with a high degree of expertise. This encounter had a formative influence on his own artistic work. Baselitz’s main focus is on the Old Masters’ more unusual motifs extending beyond classic compositions. He uses them as a source of inspiration, but they are never simply echoed in his works in the form of motifs; instead, they permeate his own artistic creations subtly and on many levels. This exhibition shows these connections between works from Baselitz’s oeuvre and Old Masters prints – as a dialogue of motifs and a confrontation of styles all at once.

Baselitz decided at an early age to use his art to rebel against the fast-returning self-assurance of the newly founded Federal Republic. Equally, this was a means of settling an artistic score with his father’s generation, whose radical form was sometimes shocking, forcing people to change the way they looked at art and to examine motifs more closely. Provocative, radical and nonconformist, always open to disharmony, to flouting rules and taboos; swinging drastically between form and non-form; that might be one way to describe Georg Baselitz’s (anti-) aesthetic. This means that he is perceived as a “German” artist in the critical (i.e. best) meaning of the word – especially in the international response to his works.

In terms of his preferred techniques of classical printing, Georg Baselitz trod a path of his own. In the 1960s, a new era began in reproductive graphics, with silk-screen and offset printing – but Baselitz turned away from such forms of mass reproduction. Instead, he experimented with state proofs, producing small series of works, some of which he altered individually after the impression was taken. With this creative insistence, Baselitz brought traditional printmaking techniques back to the attention of contemporary art, modernising it considerably and thus finding his very own, personal imagery – the “Baselitz Maniera”.

An extensive catalogue accompanies this birthday exhibition at Dresden’s Kupferstich-Kabinett. Georg Baselitz, who was involved in the preparations for the exhibition, very kindly chose to exclusively provide an original etching for a limited special edition of the catalogue.

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