Georg Baselitz, Untitled, 2015, ink on paper, diptych, A: 25 7/8 × 19 13/16 inches (65.9 × 50.4 cm); B: 26 1/8 × 19 13/16 inches (66.2 × 50.3 cm) © Georg Baselitz 2017. Photo by Jochen Littkemann, Berlin.

"Baselitz and Hokusai: Ohne Titel (‘Untitled’): A suite of ten paired drawings, 3–9 July 2015" at the British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

On view May 25 through July 10, 2017.

The German artist Georg Baselitz has given this important set of ten paired drawings made during one week in July 2015. They take as their starting point the well-known self-portrait by Hokusai (1760–1849), the Japanese Ukiyo-e master. In the original ink drawing of 1842, Hokusai depicted himself in a kimono as an old man at the age of 83. He incorporated the drawing into a letter to his publisher with a volume of his earlier sketches made when he was a younger artist of ‘about forty-one or forty-two,’ ironically commenting they should be regarded as ‘immature work from the past.’ The drawing and letter are held by the National Museum of World Cultures, Leiden and are presently on display in the British Museum’s exhibition "Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave" (Room 35).

Identifying with the Hokusai figure, Baselitz, in his late seventies, points to his own work from the early 1960s in this set of paired drawings. His depiction of obscene and deformed body parts, a deliberate ‘act of aggression,’ as he called it, provoked public outcry at the time. The drawings from his Pandemonium period, named after the provocative manifesto he co-wrote with fellow East German Eugen Schönebeck, first brought Baselitz to public attention.

Baselitz, on the left-hand side of this present series of drawings, produces a reprise of his earlier style from the Pandemonium years up to the late 1960s when the upside- down motif appears. They look back to a time of youthful angst and rage when Germany, divided between East and West, appeared incapable of addressing the atrocities of its recent past.


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