Georg Baselitz + Carl Fredrik Hill


Introduction by David Neuman, director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.
Georg Baselitz by Donald Kuspit, professor of art history and philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook (1995).
Some Notes On the Study of Hill by Ola Billgren, artist.

Exhibition catalogue no 13.
62 pages, color, illustrated, soft cover. Texts in Swedish/English.
Published 2000 by Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall.
Price: 150 SEK (approx. 16 EUR)


In the oeuvre that Carl Fredrik Hill left at his death in 1911 drawings occupy a prominent position, beginning with a schoolboy’s pencil studies drawn from nature and finishing with a defeated world conqueror’s high-handed visions, at once its given traditional substratum and its eruptive finale.

In between, a period can be distinguished during which the drawings in conjunction with the oil paintings which they were intended to serve form the storm centre of this remarkable artistic output. The years are 1876 and 1877 and the places before whose features Hill’s artistic activity culminates are, among others, Champagne, Fontainebleau, and Luc. From this period of restless work and roving in the landscape between Paris and the Atlantic coast a few sketchbooks have been preserved whose importance was highlighted recently by Sten Åke Nilsson on the occasion of an exhibition of Hill’s work from 1876 onwards. The contents of the books are primarily sketches for paintings drawn in black crayon on thin paper, a technique which more or less unintentionally resulted in the drawings being copied in reverse on to the back of the page or on the following page, an effect which Hill, always prone to pick up new ideas, seized on when he continued to work on his motif.

With their stereographically duplicated figures and entangled lines the drawings make an uneasy and almost overwrought impression despite the single-minded concentration on a purposeful composition. There is also every reason to make a closer study of the way in which motifs have been intertwined in these sketches and preliminary drawings. Many of them display a deviation from the genre of landscape painting. The wealth of pictorial or verbal notes may not be surprising in itself, but the function of the notes seems often to have been forgotten in favour of something else which appears on paper or in the artist’s mind. The landscape that is presented is composed of manifold visions and has been provided with inscriptions ranging from technical trivialities and high-flown attributions with no distinction being made between the useful and the panegyric. This relative chaos comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with Hill’s work. Inscribing his own work in a glorious context is one of his most basic impulses and his development – which had now reached its last but one stage – is largely about attaining a bardic position which will give him unlimited access to the dimension of the inscription.

Clair, de l’or, lumière dorée… In Hill’s work exalted cries to this effect reverberate in the sky over the falaises and the tides of the Norman coast. Nor is this the only kind of poetry. At the same time the sketchbooks from Luc-sur-Mer depict coastal rocks and their profiles in what almost amounts to short-hand fashion bearing witness to a radically morphological rage. This collection of drawings from the coast forms a point of intersection for various interests united by the “contagion” of coal and the palimpsest-like semi-transparency which it provided and by means of which the different elements are joined with almost cinematic effectiveness: Hill’s tremendous application to his artistic career, his addiction to the imaginary, his sudden perception of the real present (a passer-by on the beach – his face)…Here, too, one perceives, in the ongoing intense treatment of the visual impressions, an attraction to life (nothing less) in the form of a young woman, reclining naked on a bed which was probably originally a section of the beach at Luc but which has been transformed into a love-nest in some obscure Parisian chamber. Drawn with the clumsiness of a not very experienced figure-drawer who works from memory, the slender woman makes a moving impression as she lies reclining on her back in the darkness and like an awkward Danae speaks to her invisible lover with a gaze of pure childishness. There is no impudence, not even coquetry, and yet there is something about the mood – a secret lustfulness – that betrays the problematic experience of meeting the world of cocottes which is a recurring element in the work Hill produced during his insanity. Apparently while working on one of his beach motifs Hill was reminded of one of the dubious female acquaintances with whom, according to a preserved diary, he used to spend intimate moments in Paris, and, giving in to his amorous recollections, he cannot avoid, in the philistine manner of the period, confusing the desired female surrender with vicious shamelessness. It is possible to talk of a social puzzle picture where the figure of a truly desirable love partner emerges in the slightly guilty aura irradiated by the young whore – the kind of personage Hill jokingly refers to in a letter to his mother: “…if you can find a kind and wonderful girl, delicately built, I shall come home for a fortnight and arrange the matter”. (…)

(Excerpt from the catalogue text “Some notes on the study of Hill” by Ola Billgren, 1995.)