GERHARD RICHTER (B. 1932)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION 
GERHARD RICHTER (B. 1932)

Fiktion (Garten) (Fiction (Garden))

Details
GERHARD RICHTER (B. 1932)
Fiktion (Garten) (Fiction (Garden))
signed, titled, numbered and dated 'Nr. 371 "Fiktion" (garten) Richter, 1975' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 ¾ x 98 3/8in. (200 x 250cm.)
Painted in 1975
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1977.
Literature
J. Harten and D. Elger (eds.), Gerhard Richter: Bilder 1962-1985, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1986, pp. 188 and 386, no. 371 (incorrectly listed as destroyed).
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ed.), Gerhard Richter, Werkübersicht/Catalogue Raisonné: 1962-1993, vol. III, Ostfildern-Ruit 1993, p. 167, no. 371 (incorrectly listed as destroyed).
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter, Maler, Cologne 2002, p. 222.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Post lot text
The present work will be included in volume 2 of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Gerhard Richter, edited by the Gerhard Richter Archive Dresden, as no. 371, to be published in 2016.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘Abstract paintings are fictitious models because they visualize a reality which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exists. We attach negative names to this reality; the unknown, the ungraspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in terms of substitute images like heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood’ (G. Richter, quoted in R. Nasgaard, ‘Gerhard Richter’ in Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107).

Emanating from a private collection, acquired directly from the artist in 1977, Fiktion (Garten) was previously thought destroyed but is here rediscovered and exhibited publicly for the very first time after nearly 40 years. An image of reality as if seen through half-closed eyes, the work comes from a series of seven paintings of the same title which deal with the complexity of vision and the fine line between reality and abstraction. Across its vast surface, Fiktion (Garten) immerses the viewer in a deep, iridescent expanse of transcendent light and colour. Turbulent swathes of dark blue, dusky pink and warm yellow intermingle with strains of grey and green to form diaphanous sfumato layers, creating a rich illusionistic space that appears to extend forever. Situated on the brink of the Abstraktes Bilder series that the artist would commence the following year, the series represents a compelling juncture between the twin aesthetics of photorealism and abstraction that have defined Richter’s extraordinary reinvention of painting. Evoking alternative realms of being, the Fiktion paintings combine the sumptuous photographic sheen of Richter’s earlier cloudscapes and seascapes with abstracted compositional surfaces divorced from figurative content. Enveloping the viewer in a new painterly reality, Fiktion (Garten) conjures a dense fog that obscures all sense of visual orientation. The garden invoked by its title is but a ‘fiction’, a fleeting reminiscence of earthy, floral hues bathed in glimmering light and shade. As a photorealist rendering of an abstracted vision, the work eloquently engages in the dialogue between reality and representation that lies at the heart of Richter’s practice.

The Fiktion paintings are closely related to Richter’s Annunciation after Titian works of 1973. Both series bear witness to a time of profound experimentation within the artist’s oeuvre. Following a period of intense focus on his monochromatic Grau (Grey) canvases, Richter had begun to find distinction in the most stripped back approach to the canvas. In Annunciation after Titian, Richter approached his enquiry from an alternative stance, gradually effacing a pre-existing image (Titian’s The Annunciation) through painterly gesture. In these works, Richter creates the sense of a reality that exists just beyond our reach – an image straining to be seen through hazy layers of paint. Initially motivated by a desire to copy Titian’s painting for himself, Richter explained how ‘my copy went wrong, and the pictures that finally emerged went to show that it just can’t be done any more… All I could do was to break the whole thing down and show that it’s no longer possible’ (G. Richter, quoted in ‘Interview with Jonas Storsve, 1991’ in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter. The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings 1962-1993, London 1995, p. 226). As Robert Storr has described, the works convey a sense of looking at Titian’s image ‘through a glass darkly’ and, in doing so, comment on the inherently fictional nature of painting. It is this very axiom that the Fiktion works explore, yet where Annunciation of Titian sprung from a pre-existing image, here this support is abstracted. There is no image of a garden behind Richter’s diffuse surface; instead, dappled flickers of light and shade coalesce into a painterly mirage. In this regard, they may be seen to bridge the gap between the self-sufficient nature of the Grau paintings and the figurative roots of Annunciation of Titian, paving the way for the complex dialogue between abstraction and figuration that was to unfold across his oeuvre over the following decades.

Richter’s journey towards abstraction was a complicated process of conceptual and technical innovation, and the Fiktion works draw together a number of elements that shaped his practice during the first half of the 1970s. In particular, they bear witness to Richter’s increasingly complex dialogue with the aesthetic of photography that had defined his work during the previous decade. The cloudscapes and seascapes had marked a new level of compositional abstraction within Richter’s photo-paintings, yet the Fiktion series goes further still, with their hallucinogenic pictorial surfaces dissolving into impenetrable atmospheric haze. The Fiktion works toy with the viewer, coupling a photorealist aesthetic with a tantalising detachment from the known world. ‘If I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practicing photography by other means’, Richter claimed. ‘Seen in this way, those of my paintings that have no photographic source (the abstracts, etc.) are also photographs’ (G. Richter, quoted in ‘Interview with Rolf Schön, 1972’, in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter. The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London 1995, p.73). Richter would later provide a similar assessment of his Abstraktes Bilder: ‘Everywhere, they show similarities with real appearances, which somehow never allow themselves to come into focus’ (G. Richter, quoted in S. Koldehoff, ‘Gerhard Richter. Die Macht der Malerei’, Art. Das Kunstmagazin, December 1999, p. 20).

Richter’s desire to create a new, autonomous existence for painting led to an increased fascination with the optical effects of colour. In this regard, the Fiktion works are also closely related to the Colour Charts and the Red-Blue-Yellow series, which use colour as a way of obscuring the trace of the artist’s hand. As Dietmar Elger explains, ‘In the latter, gestural brushstrokes of the three primary colours dissolve into an indifferent colourfulness. In the charts, colours disappear retinally in an overabundance of mixed tones. Both processes serve to minimise subjective, creative decisions. The works “take complete responsibility for themselves”’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Chicago 2009, p. 217). In the present work, expressive traces are submerged by its smooth surface and oscillating chromatic spectrum. Colours appear to blend and merge of their own accord, obfuscating all gestural residue to create a photorealist sheen. ‘Painting is the making of an analogy for something non-visual and incomprehensible’, Richter would later assert, ‘giving it form and bringing it within reach’ (G. Richter, ‘Notes, 1981’, in H-U. Obrist (ed.), Gerhard Richter. The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London 1995, p. 99). As Dietmar Elgar has explained, the Fiktion works take this premise to an extreme: unlike Richter’s later abstract paintings, in which he would ‘repeatedly reach for landscape-like connections’, the Fiktion works of 1975-1976 function ‘by dispersing the colour on the canvas to such a diffuse paint mist, no longer making any associative links to a known pre-painting (Vor-Bild) possible’ (D. Elger, Gerhard Richter, Maler, Cologne 2002, p. 222).

Fiktion (Garten) represents a culmination of the various strands pursued by Richter during the first half of the 1970s, paving the way for the extensive body of abstract painting that would occupy his oeuvre throughout the following decades. The title Fiktion is certainly apt for a series which engages so profoundly with questions of vision and perception. ‘Abstract paintings are fictitious models because they visualize a reality which we can neither see nor describe, but which we may nevertheless conclude exists’, Richter claimed in 1982. ‘We attach negative names to this reality; the unknown, the ungraspable, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in terms of substitute images like heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting we create a better means of approaching what can be neither seen nor understood’ (G. Richter, quoted in R. Nasgaard, ‘Gerhard Richter’ in Gerhard Richter: Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 107).
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