Vienna, March 4. The human body and eroticism seen by great classical masters in front of the inverted nudes of contemporary artist Georg Baselitz. It is the dialogue, or the discussion, that a new exhibition in Vienna proposes where the German painter dares to look Rubens, Cranach or Titian face to face.

“I think what he has done is very brave,” Andreas Zimmermann, who co-designed the exhibition with Baselitz himself, which opens next Monday at the Museum of Art History, told EFE. Austrian capital.

“Baselitz. Naked Masters” is the name of the exhibition in which 70 of the pieces created by the German painter over the past five decades are combined with 40 classic paintings chosen by himself from the collections of the Viennese museum.


The common element, the body, eroticism, old age. In short, the analysis of the human condition through the nude.

“That the subject is the body gives (to the exhibition) a very strong coherence, a coherence of content or an aesthetic-existential coherence”, defines Zimmermann.

A coherence that is obtained despite the contrast between the inverted figures of Baselitz, breaking techniques such as the use of the finger as a brush and styles that bring it closer to pop art or even abstraction, and the classic representations of the great masters. .

Thus, for example, the exhibition confronts a “Black Elke”, in which Baselitz shows his naked wife, with a portrait in which Rubens represents his wife Hélène Fourment as the goddess Venus.

Two pieces separated by nearly four centuries of evolution in painting, but united by the trust and intimacy between the artist and the model.


With this exhibition, Baselitz has literally turned Austria’s most important museum upside down.

His inverted figures, based on his belief that the sky above and the earth below are only a convention, and his large-format paintings fill five rooms of the museum in strict chronological order.

Representations of Adam and Eve, as the first humans, intersect with early nudes created by Baselitz, featuring portraits of the painter and his wife, Elke, the only models the painter uses.

From there, the exhibition goes through experiments in abstraction that rub shoulders with Titians, watercolors and ink drawings that dialogue with the eroticism of the Mannerists.

The last two rooms focus on Baselitz’s last works, some completed last year, in which reference is made to the fragility of the body.

Zimmermann himself recognizes that placing a contemporary artist like Baselitz next to Rubens or Titian is a “courageous” gamble.

“We joke between us saying that it’s like jumping from a ten-meter tower and we don’t really know if there is water in the swimming pool”, explains the commissioner of the show, who anticipates that maybe not everyone will understand this comparison.

In his choice of classical pieces, Baselitz marked his preference for Mannerist painters who challenged the ideals of the Renaissance at the end of the 16th century, just as he focused his art on permanent renewal and an aspiration for creative freedom.

What he himself defined as “the audacity to change and create new paintings”.

Two years ago, the Museum of Art History offered Baselitz, who turned 85 last January, a project to which the artist reacted with delight.

“We gave Baselitz, more or less, carte blanche”, summarizes the director of the institution, Sabine Haag, who proposes to “create a visual dialogue, an artistic conversation” with the old masters.

This is not the first time that the Museum of Art History has invited a contemporary artist to choose his favorite pieces from more than four million objects that the museum and seven other associated state galleries possess, for the compare to their own work.

The painter Lucian Freud, grandson of the inventor of psychoanalysis, or the filmmaker Wes Anderson, are among the artists who have collaborated on similar projects.

Antonio Sanchez Solis

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