Growing up in East Germany, Georg Baselitz was isolated from the latest art developments in Western Europe. In 1956 he emigrated to West Berlin, where the dominant style was tachisme, a form of painterly abstraction that corresponded to late Abstract Expressionism in America. Baselitz rejected that style as decorative and instead evolved a vocabulary of disturbing figurative imagery that caused a scandal when it was exhibited. Eventually the figures in his paintings were depicted as fragmenting apart and soon thereafter were turned upside-down in what has become his hallmark.
Baselitz's early experiences with printmaking began at a municipal workshop for artists in West Berlin. He started with etching and soon turned to woodcut. During a stay in Italy in the mid-1960s, he discovered sixteenth-century Mannerist prints and began a personal collection that is now well known. He also tried the tonal "chiaroscuro" woodcut technique prevalent in that early period.
Having made nearly one thousand prints in the course of his career, Baselitz stands out for his direct engagement with technical processes. He has described the resistance of copperplates, woodblocks, and linoleum blocks as creative forces in his art and has referred to prints as having "symbolic power which has nothing to do with a painting." He is also known for distinctive printed surfaces created with oil paint rather than printer's ink. Woman on the Beach and Nude with Three Arms are examples, and these prints garnered much attention during the Neo-Expressionist movement of the late 1970s and 1980s, when linoleum cut and woodcut had a great resurgence. Baselitz's wife, Elke, often assists him with printing, using a press in his studio, although he also works with master printers.
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, here seen in an untitled example depicting a fragmented woodsman, one of the figure types he presented as modern heroes
Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 204.