Devotion: Georg Baselitz's intense, emotionally charged portraits of famous artists

GEORG BASELITZ Philip Guston 1944, 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

"There have always been portraits throughout art history. But more important than the subject has always been the artist himself... I call this exhibition Devotion because the people I portray here are especially meaningful to me." – These are the words of Georg Baselitz ahead of his latest solo show at New York's Gagosian gallery this month.

Devotion will present new paintings and works on paper by the pioneering neo-expressionist artist whose works come with an "intense emotional charge," as Gagosian puts it.

Baselitz’s interest in portraiture apparently emerges from his fascination with memory and its inconsistencies, as well as his observation that every painting – even a portrait of another person – is the artist’s self-portrait.

At the Kunstmuseum Basel, he saw Henri Rousseau’s The Muse Inspires the Poet (Marie Laurencin and Guillaume Apollinaire) (1909) and assumed that the depicted couple was Rousseau and his wife – only to discover later that the painting shows the poet Apollinaire and his muse, painter Laurencin.

This realisation gave rise to a new line of inquiry for Baselitz. Over the past year, he has intensified his ongoing engagement with images of the past, producing paintings and drawings based on artists’ self-portraits. As he works, in paint or ink, he recalls the effects of each portrait and captures them in his own unique style.

In this latest exhibition, Rousseau reappears, this time alongside the monumental heads of Frank Auerbach, Cecily Brown, Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, Otto Dix, Nicole Eisenman, Tracey Emin, Philip Guston, Erich Heckel, Joan Mitchell, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Arnold Schoenberg, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol, and others.

Devotion is much more than an acknowledgement of Baselitz’s inspirations. "Each source painting slides through the complex filter that is Baselitz’s eye," explains the Gallery. "And, as the portraits materialise before him, Baselitz brings them into physical permanence – uniting past, present, and future at the intersection of formal precision and sincere homage."

Georg Baselitz: Devotion runs from 24 January until 16 March 2019 at the Gagosian gallery on 555 West 24th Street, New York, NY.

GEORG BASELITZ Cecily Brown, 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Cecily Brown, 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Mark Rothko, 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Mark Rothko, 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Piet M., 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Piet M., 2018 Oil on canvas 65 x 39 3/8 in 164.9 x 100 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ N.E., 2018 India ink and watercolor on paper 26 x 20 1/8 in 66 x 51 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ N.E., 2018 India ink and watercolor on paper 26 x 20 1/8 in 66 x 51 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Willem, 2018 Pencil, charcoal and india ink on paper 26 1/4 x 20 in 66.7 x 50.8 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian

GEORG BASELITZ Willem, 2018 Pencil, charcoal and india ink on paper 26 1/4 x 20 in 66.7 x 50.8 cm © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian