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German artist Georg Baselitz poses for photographers in front of his painting 'Avignon ade, 2017' during a media preview of the exhibition 'Baselitz' at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen near Basel, Switzerland January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann(reuters_tickers)
By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi
RIEHEN, Switzerland (Reuters) - Georg Baselitz, a provocative German artist who inspired a generation with challenging depictions of the Nazi era and the post-war division of Germany, is being honoured by a retrospective to mark his 80th birthday.
Born Hans-Georg Kern in the German town of Deutschbaselitz in 1938, Baselitz gained worldwide fame in the 1970s with his portraits - often bizarrely showing his subjects upside down - which he painted in a neo-expressionist style.
"Seeing 60 years of one's own pictures is a difficult undertaking," Baselitz said at a news conference marking the opening of the exhibition at the Swiss Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, near Basel.
"But I don't recognise it (the art) any more'. And it's almost as if I were to re-encounter myself now as a baby, I would not recognise myself."
In a manifesto in 1961 when he was 23, he said he was "swollen and bloated" with memories of the Nazi era - his father had been a party member - and the aftermath of a divided Germany and the socialist East, which he fled in 1957.
His early paintings in the 1960s, he said, were "aggressive, wholly malicious", referring to works which at the time German prosecutors seized as lewd.
In later years the uneasy portraits of the 1960s and 1970s evolved into sprawling works in dark and pastel tones, and he became famous for his 'upside down' paintings - a quirk of presentation he has pursued to the present day.
Bringing together some 90 paintings and 12 sculptures spanning from 1959 through the present day, the exhibit is open to the public from Jan. 21 through April 29.
(Editing by Richard Balmforth)