Home page

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Gerhard Richter (b. 1932)
Abstraktes Bild
signed, numbered and dated '817-1 Richter 1994' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
20 x 22 in. (51 x 55 cm.)
Painted in 1994.
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Private collection, Switzerland
Anon. sale; Christie's, London, 21 June 2007, lot 334
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., London, 1998, n.p., no. 817-1 (illustrated in color).
Gerhard Richter: a Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings from 1993-2004, Dusseldorf, 2005, no. 817-1 (illustrated in color).
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Gerhard Richter, Painting in the Nineties, June-August 1995, pp. 29 and 86 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Gerhard Richter has approached abstraction through various idioms. His early Colour Charts of 1966 are a form of Pop appropriation. Industrially produced color sample charts are transformed into high art tableaux, removing the subjectivity of the artist in favor of a depersonalized mode. Similarly, the cityscape series of the early 1970s evoked the boundary between representation and abstraction. The images, at first precise, appear blurred on closer inspection, the thick layers of paint themselves becoming the object of the viewer's gaze. Early experiments in an explicitly abstract register employ the language of gestural abstraction.

But Richter's adoption of diverse modes of approach was in fact part of a larger conceptual project to examine the limitations of representation (in the words of Benjamin Buchloh, as "a memory of the past of a painting"). For him, the impossibility of drafting a valid image of the world was a central lesson of art history. But the epistemological problems of painting are also intrinsic to the nature of reality. The artist explains: "I don't mistrust reality, of which I know next to nothing. I mistrust the picture of reality conveyed to us by our senses, which is imperfect and circumscribed" (Richter quoted in Gerhard Richter 1998, exh. cat., London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, 1998, p. 13).

In the late 1970s Richter departed from his earlier attempts at abstraction. Rather than impose a model of the world onto the canvas, he attempted to devise a system allowing chance - nature herself - to play a role. The genesis of his mature Abstract paintings is very considered. Richter places a number of primed white canvases around his studio. Working on them simultaneously, like "a chess player simultaneously playing on several boards" (Richter quoted in T.A. Neff (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Paintings, London 1988, p. 108), he begins by applying a ground of red, green blue or yellow. The pristine surface is left undisturbed while Richter considers his next move. Essential to the process is that works are completed in several stages. Step by step they change in appearance, and with each new accretion of paint a new image emerges.

Richter is cognizant of the failure Modernist ideology - abstraction as a model for utopian social ideals, spiritual principles and subjective unities of the self. In the face of this legacy, however, he still finds scope for optimism and the redemptive power of art. In the instinct to apply paint to canvas, he identifies the "highest longing for truth and happiness and love" (Ibid, p. 107). It is from this sanguine belief that his Abstract Paintings are brought into existence.

More from Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

View All
View All