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Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guar… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION

Abstraktes Bild 747-1

Abstraktes Bild 747-1
signed, numbered and dated ‘747-1 Richter 1991’ (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
200 x 200 cm. (78 3⁄4 x 78 3⁄4 in.)
Painted in 1991
Galerie Liliane et Michel Durand-Dessert, Paris
Massimo de Martino, Lugano
Galerie Guy Ledune, Brussels
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above in 1994)
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 7 February 2007, lot 17
Seomi Gallery, Seoul
Schoneward Fine Arts, Dusseldorf / Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco
Private Collection, New York
Galerie Liliane et Michel Durand-Dessert, Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., Paris, 1991 (illustrated).
Tate Gallery, Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., London, 1991-1992 (illustrated, p. 107).
Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gerhard Richter, exh. cat., vol. I, Bonn, 1993 (illustrated, p.159).
Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Peter Gidal, Endlose Endlichkeit, Gerhard Richter, vol. II, Bonn,
1993 (illustrated, p.98).
Gerhard Richter (ed.), Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Catalogue raisonné 1962-1993, vol. III, Bonn, 1993 (illustrated, plate 747-1).
Kunsthalle Wien, Peter Gidal, Endlose Endlichkeit, Der zerbrochene Spiegle. Positionen zur Malerei, Vienna, 1993 (not illustrated, pp.60-61).
Peter Gidal, Endlose Endlichkeit, Parkett, no.35, 1993 (not illustrated, p.50, pp.52-54; illustrated, p.44).
Capital, November 1993 (illustrated, p.222).
Musée d' Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Gerhard Richter,exh. cat., Paris, 1993-1994 (illustrated, p. 159, plate 747-1).
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Gerhard Richter, Madrid, 1994 (illustrated, p.147).
Max Kozloff, Gerhard Richter. He Who Misleads, Art in America, September 1994 (illustrated, p.99).
Michael Hierholzer, Gerhard Richter, Deutschland / Germany, February 1998 (illustrated, p.64).
Gemeindebrief 24⁄73, Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Rondorf, Cologne, 2002 (illustrated, p.18).
Artinvestor, no.2, 2007 (not illustrated, p. 34; illustrated, p.35).
Wirtschaftswoche, 27 August 2007 (illustrated, p.119).
Monika Jenni-Preihs, Gerhard Richter und die Geschichte Deutschalands, Vienna / Berlin, 2013 (illustrated, p.199).
D. Elger, Gerhard Richter, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. IV, 1988–1994, Ostfildern, 2015, (illustrated, plate 747-1, p. 257).
Paris, Galerie Liliane et Michel Durand-Dessert, Gerhard Richter, 1991.
London, Tate Gallery, Gerhard Richter, 1991-1992, p.130, no. 60.
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Gerhard Richter, 1993-1994. This exhibition later travelled to Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik, Stockholm, Moderna Museet and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Art Reina Sofia.
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Lot Essay

“I want to end up with a picture that I haven’t planned. This method of arbitrary choice, chance, inspiration and destruction may produce a specific type of picture, but it never produces a predetermined picture. Each picture has to evolve out of a painterly or visual logic: it has to emerge as if inevitably.” Gerhard Richter

Emanating an almost palpable sense of radiant heat from its incandescent core, Gerhard Richter’s 1991 painting is a stunning and sumptuous example of his celebrated Abstraktes Bilder. Since their inception these canvases have become one of the most celebrated series in late-twentieth century painting, their colorful and highly active surfaces depicting not only physical beauty, but also interrogating the form and function of the art form itself. One of a suite of four works—another example resides in the Sammlung Hoffmann in Berlin—these majestic canvases are exemplary examples of the artist’s unique painterly practice, putting down his brush and picking up a squeegee to manipulate the painted surface. The only work from this suite to be included in Gerhard Richter’s seminal retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London in 1991, it is among his most striking and powerful works. All four paintings were reunited later at The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía for the Gerhard Richter exhibition in Madrid in 1993-1994; however, the present work is the only one which has been shown in all five European museum exhibitions: London, Paris, Bonn, Stockholm, and Madrid between 1991 and 1994. By disrupting the normally hallowed surface, Richter—literally—opens up painting to new and more vital aesthetic, forcing a reconsideration of the role of painting, and consequently that of a painter, in contemporary society. Measuring two meters square, this monumental painting resonates with painterly energy. High-keyed passages of sizzling red—with hues ranging from scarlet and crimson to ruby and Imperial red—coalesce into pools of colour across the surface. Along with the almost physical feeling of warmth given off by these reds, there is also a visual tension between the different concentrations of colour. This is particularly evident in the areas where different tones meet. Richter’s squeegee technique allows them to intermingle without actually coalescing; it is this tautness—like the active edges of Mark Rothko’s floating fields of color—that are the primary sites of the painterly action that is at the heart of Richter’s abstract paintings. In the central portion of the canvas, through the smears of red, hints of verdant green, yellow, and pale creams, emerge, hinting at a mysterious corporeal body submerged in the pools of red. It is the combination of these receding ‘cooler’ colors, next the ‘advancing’ reds, that gives the surface of this particular painting an extraordinary sense of depth.

Abstraktes Bild is the continuation of Richter’s lifelong investigation into both the function and purpose of painting. Growing up in Europe, and experiencing first-hand the destruction of the Second World War, Richter began to question the relevance of painting in contemporary art. His response was to focus on the process of painting itself; beginning with his hyper-realistic painted renditions of found and family photographs, Richter began to disrupt the sanctity of the image by dragging a brush over the freshly painted surface, giving each painting an hypnotic ‘blur.’ “For about a year now,” Richter wrote in 1992, “I have been unable to do anything in my painting but scrape off, pile on and then remove again. In this process, I don’t actually reveal what was beneath. If I wanted to do that, I would have to think what to reveal (figurative pictures or signs or patterns); that is, pictures that might as well be produced direct. It would be something of a symbolic trick: bringing to light the lost, buried pictures, or something to that effect. The process of applying, destroying and layering serves only to achieve a more varied technical repertoire in picture-making” (G. Richter quoted by D. Elger, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting, Cologne 2002, p. 322).

Following on from his earlier Forest paintings which evoked the density, confusion and romantic atmosphere of the forest, Richter began exploring the aesthetic possibilities of the lace-like layering of paint across the canvas in a way that adds a perceptual depth to his work. By employing his squeegee method of dragging wet paint across the canvas, Richter allows Abstraktes Bild to build up layers of hot and warm reds, with flashes of green, to produce a full spectrum of highkeyed colours. This method of construction begins with an image that he proceeds to erase by dragging a tall plastic spatula loaded with paint across the picture’s surface at a late phase in its execution. The resulting schisms and fractures have strong parallels with his earlier practice of pulling a brush over the wet surface of his photo-based canvases. Richter revels in the method of his construction declining to hide any of the mechanics of the painting. Here, the striations created by the pressure of the squeegee are softened, giving the surface of the canvas an enigmatic quality, enhancing the diaphanous nature of the remaining paint layers which have been rendered almost sheer by the delicate skill of Richter’s hand.

“With a brush you have control. The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark. From experience you know exactly what will happen. With the squeegee you lose control. Not all control, but some control. It depends on the angle, the pressure and the particular paint I am using. ” (Conversation between Gerhard Richter and Nicholas Serota, Spring 2011, I Have Nothing to Say and I’m Saying it, Gerhard Richter: Panorama, London, Tate Modern, p. 27).

Abstraktes Bild is characterized by a feeling of density and romance, but also intense coloristic harmony, lyrical and tonal resonances reminding us of rich carnations of Titian, Rubens and other great European master and deep, spiritual notes of a great Rothko. In the present work, Richter’s chosen palette of red is an auspicious one, as it is a colour with a long and noble lineage in the history of art. From the earthy red ochres used in the earliest cave paintings to the shocking modernism of Malevich’s supremacist red square, red possesses an emotive power unlike any other colour in the chromatic spectrum. It is the colour of love, but also an indicator of mortality and death; it can symbolize a warning, a cry, an appeal, and temptation, yet it can also signify happiness, success, good luck, and fortune. It is the colour of Renaissance Venice, and of revolution! Red has remained one of the most symbolic and constant colors throughout history.

Works such as Abstraktes Bild represent the pinnacle of Richter’s painterly investigations. The broad sweeps of paint which traverse the surface break down the arbitrary dichotomy of abstraction and figuration by opening up the surface to reveal to hidden structure of mysterious forms. Considered a master amongst twentieth century artists for his expert handling of paint, this picture in particular demonstrates Richter’s unrivalled ability to produce mysterious and atmospheric works that also questions the very nature of painting in the modern age.

“What shall I paint? How shall I paint? ‘What’ is the hardest thing, because it is the essence. ‘How’ is easy by comparison. To start off with the ‘How’ is frivolous, but legitimate. Apply the How and thus use the requirements of the technique, the material and the physical possibilities, in order to realize the intention. The intention: to invent nothing – no idea, no composition, no form – and to receive everything: composition, object, form, idea, picture.” (Gerhard Richter quoted in Hans-Ulbrecht Obrist, ed., Gerhard Richter: The Daily Practice of Painting. Writings and Interviews 1962-1993, London 1995, p. 129)

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