Oberon, 1963

Uneasy, as if we had been transported weightlessly to an odd and foreign world – that is how we feel in front of this large painting.

And justifiably so. For in the early sixties, Georg Baselitz deliberately provoked the viewing public with the immediacy of his surprising figurative painting style. Before a dark reddish brown background, four beings elongated in mannerist fashion crowd their way into the pictorial space. Bald-headed and long-necked, they grow on the canvas like sprouts – setting their sights on the viewer from a great height. The figures are placed neither in perspectival space nor into the context of a narrative. The title “Oberon” refers to a character by the same name in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – the mythical god of gnomes and elves. These strange creatures are symbolic of a counter-world set apart from our everyday lives – just like Baselitz’s paintings, which do not illustrate reality but develop a painterly and sometimes very alien realm of their own. “Oberon” is today considered a key work in the artist’s oeuvre, but also in the development of post-war painting in general. In the early sixties, however, Baselitz shocked people not only with his paintings but also with the powerful, vulgar poetical language of his so-called “Pandemonium Manifestos”.

© Georg Baselitz

Oil on canvas
250 × 200 cm
Inv. No. 2325

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