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Georg Baselitz was born Hans-Georg Kern in Grossenbaselitz near Dresden in what would become East Germany. He received his art education in both East and West Berlin, settling in the latter in 1958. There he gradually developed his figurative painting, thus challenging the orthodoxy of abstraction in the twentieth century. He has come to be regarded as a pioneer in the renewal of figurative painting and as a founder of the so-called international neo-expressionist movement. Man in the Moon—Franz Pforr is an outstanding example of Baselitz' early figurative painting and a powerfully evocative progenitor for his subsequent work.

In 1965, while studying in Florence, Baselitz became interested in the sixteenth-century Italian mannerists Agnolo Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino, Parmigianino, and Pontormo. He identified with their "daring, destructive approach to the heroic imagery of the Renaissance." [1] He later admitted he is a "mannerist in the sense that I deform things. I'm brutal, naïve, and Gothic." [2] Inspired by his visit to Florence, Baselitz produced a group of paintings from 1965 to 1966, which he called his Helden or Hero paintings, of which Man in the Moon—Franz Pforr is an early example. Like the mannerists, Baselitz undertook a daring approach to his art, which for him entailed a return to figurative painting, a style long absent in post-World War II art, particularly in his native Germany. The Hero paintings were critically acclaimed and Baselitz became the focus of international attention.

The attenuated head and gross torso in Man in the Moon—Franz Pforr recall the mannerist tradition and the figurative distortion associated with it. Here, the snakelike/beastlike forms contort in and around the figure suggesting a sexual attraction/repulsion shared by many of the Hero paintings. The swollen, exposed fleshy areas are lushly painted, and at once convey a beautifully fantastic, mysteriously grotesque figure. Adding an almost lyrical quality to the image are the podlike forms emanating from the body in a pulsating rhythm.

Painterly, colorful, and fluid swaths surrounding the figure's upper region contrast with the painting's dark, shallow background, causing the figure to emerge as a floating, glowing presence. This effect has been tied to the title's allusion to the man in the moon, the fabled nursery rhyme figure. [3]

The title's allusion to the German Romantic painter Franz Pforr (1788-1812) refers to yet another painterly tradition that Baselitz confronted. The Hero paintings portray not specific people, but types that convey historical and spiritual overtones. Man in the Moon—Franz Pforr evokes the romantic vision of Pforr and the legendary heroes in his work, such as Saint George Slaying the Dragon (Collection Noll, Frankfurt am Main). Baselitz' so-called Neue Types (New Types) present heroes, often culled from the past, that fill the void of the artist's postwar Germany. Both the mannerists and the romantics appeal to Baselitz because of their reputations as outsider artists, a distinction with which he identifies. The struggle in Baselitz' work to resolve historic traditions in a disjointed environment has been seen as a metaphor for modern Germany, a country that until recently was divided against itself. [4]

(Text by Molly Donovan, published in the National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, Art for the Nation, 2000)


1. Georg Baselitz in "Donald Kuspit Talks with Georg Baselitz," Artforum 10 (Summer 1995), 76.2. Baselitz 1995, 76.3. Sigfried Gohr, Georg Baselitz: Retrospektive 1964-1991 [exh. cat., Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, München] (Munich, 1992).4. Donald Kuspit, "Acts of Aggression: German Painting Today -- Part II," Art in America I (January 1983), 95.


lower right: GB.


The artist; (Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne); private collection, Cologne, by 1988; purchased 1995 through (Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne) by Charles and Helen Schwab, San Francisco; gift (partial and promised)1995 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Georg Baselitz: A Retrospective Exhibition, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich; Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, 1992, no. 5, color repro.
Réalités Noires, Musée d'Art Moderne, Saint-Etienne, 1994-1995.
Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000-2001, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
George Baselitz, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, 2018 (shown only in Washington).

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