Georg Baselitz’s original name was Hans Georg Kern. He was born in 1938 in Deutschbaselitz, a small village not far from Dresden. His father was a teacher at the village school. After the war ended in 1945, eastern Germany came under Soviet control and Baselitz’s father, who had been a Nazi Party member, was no longer allowed to teach in schools. Instead, he found work as a kind of trash collector. As a child, Georg Baselitz was deeply affected by his experiences of the war and post-war years, his impressions of the heavily bombed city of Dresden, the streams of refugees, and his life under different regimes and in poverty. It was through his uncle that he first discovered art, and in 1956 began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin-Weißensee (East Berlin). Just two semesters later, though, he was expelled for what was termed ‘socio-political immaturity’. Baselitz then left for West Berlin and enrolled at the art academy there.
In those days, he visited such exhibitions as The new American Painting in Berlin, and documenta II in Kassel, both held in 1958. Over the next years, he travelled to Amsterdam and Paris to explore classical and modern art. In his Pandämonic series and manifestos in the early 1960s, he engaged with and critically responded to the avant-garde dramatist, essayist and actor Antonin Artaud, the Surrealist movement and Russian literature. Baselitz’s first solo show in the Werner & Katz Gallery in West Berlin turned into public scandal when the public prosecutor’s office seized two paintings as ‘immoral’ – an event given widespread press coverage. In 1965, despite this strong public disapproval of his works, Georg Baselitz was awarded a six-month residential scholarship at the Villa Romana in Florence. In Berlin, upon his return from Florence he started to work on the series which later would become the ‘Heroes’ or ‘New Types’ and finished them in 1966. Even during his years as a student, Baselitz refused to adopt clear ideological or dogmatic positions. He neither saw the future of art in what was called international abstraction nor in socialist realism.